'Captive', the new trilling film based on a true story hits theaters September 18th and BREATHEcast caught up with the lead actor David Oyelowo (the villain) to discuss the role that faith played in such a hopeless story and what he believes is the film's purpose as well as his own.
The movie 'Captive' stars actors Oyelowo ("SELMA") and Kate Mara ("House of Cards"). Terry Botwick, real life victim Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols' mother Claritha produced the film.
'Captive' is based on a miraculous true story that drew the attention of the entire nation. It is the dramatic, thrilling, and spiritual journey of Smith and Nichols. After being taken hostage by Nichols in her apartment, Smith turns to Rick Warren's inspirational book, 'The Purpose Driven Life,' for guidance. In reading from the book, Smith not only finds purpose in her life but also helps Nichols find a more peaceful resolution to a traumatic situation.
Taking on this role was a drastic change for Oyelowo who played one of the greatest African American figures in history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 'Selma'. When asked what drew him to this role in 'Captive', he said it was the lasting message of hope that comes from Ashley Smith's life.
"I did have to take a pause for portraying a man that had killed four people in a morning, knowing that in some ways I would have to inhabit that head space for a time," Oyelowo said, "But it was the story itself, the fact that despite this awful circumstance where Brian Nickels had killed four people that morning after breaking out of the courthouse jail, and then taking Ashley Smith hostage (who herself was a meth addict). Everything about all, I just said was a downward spiral. Nothing good should come out of those circumstances and yet somehow this day ended with Brian Nickels giving himself up and letting Ashley Smith go and Ashley Smith's life being turned around for the better beyond it and I just kind of find that a miraculous thing."
Oyelowo maintained that the driving force for him to be involved was more about being part of telling a story that felt "truly redemptive despite of it having such challenging circumstance" in which that redemption was found.
The movie centers on a mother addicted to drugs that was being held captive by a killer. The two find hope in a book given to Smith in rehab called 'The Purpose Driven Life' after he desperately reads it out loud to her abductor. The book was released in 2002 as a devotional book written by Christian author and Pastor Rick Warren. It spent one of the longest periods in history on New York Times Best Seller list with over 30 million copies sold by 2007.
"I had read Rick Warren's book before I even knew of this event and that book, really what struck me about it is that it's about how God's purpose for our life is so much bigger than that which we see for ourselves," Oyelowo said, "That's exactly what ended up happening with Ashley Smith. Yes she read the book to Brian Nickels to talk him down from the fugue state that he was in, but exactly how the book illustrates God has a bigger purpose for her life then she could ever see for her own and it's ongoing."
"Here we are now talking about a film that has been made about these events. The bi-product of that night in terms of hope and the message of redemption and a second chance are still ongoing from what was a very dark night," he continued.
In the film after Smith reads Nickels some passages of the book, he asks her if she could forgive him, to which she responds, "I don't know, but maybe God can." Now years later after Smith's life has completely turned around and Nickels is in prison serving multiple life sentences Oyelowo believe Smith has forgiven her captor.
"In talking to Ashley, I have no doubt that she forgave Brian for what he did to her that night, he assured, "[But] There are four other families that no longer have their family member because of Brian Nickels and what he did and I can't speak for them."
Although Nickels seemly has forgiven Smith, she has never gone to see him in prison. "I can understand why she hasn't seen Brian since," the British actor who plays Nickels said, "even though this story is one filled with redemption to the point beyond that she got her life back. It was still a very very traumatic night. She was held at gunpoint, asked to take meth and she refused, that's also miraculous in it's own way. You actively go after this drug for years and years and the point at which you're going to say no is when a killer has a gun to your head? There were so many things about that night that I'm sure Ashley doesn't want to relive in the visceral, that she would have to if she were face to face with Brian Nickels again.
He went on to say, "I know for sure that even though I never touched drugs in my life it'll be very hard to say no with a gun to my head."
Because Nickels is serving out his sentence in solitary confinement Oyelowo was not able to contact him while playing this role. He did however keep in contact with his mother Claritha and he shared something she told him about Nickels just recently.
"I don't know where he is from a faith point of view, but I did speak to his mother a couple of weeks ago and she said something quite chilling actually. She said 'Brian feels he is where he is suppose to be,'" Oyelowo explained, "I think he recognizes what he did and the affect that it had on those peoples lives. Anyone that's going to say they feel like they are where there suppose to be while they are in solitary confinement, I think that is someone who recognizes the gravity of what they did."
Oyelowo is one of the very few actors in Hollywood who does not shy away from talking about his faith. He revealed that he was very inspired by Smith's road to recovery and believes the purpose of this film is still currently being lived out right now, 12 years later as the message of restoration continues to be spread.
"Even though it was a very dark story with truly awful things happening, we have Ashley Smith. A woman who gained her life back, who facing crisis redoubled and redoubled beyond that night and is now living evidence of God's redemption, God's forgiveness, God's ability to reinstall hope into a hopeless situation," Oyelowo described.
"I think that God knew that this would be a story that could and should inspire many who feel like their lives should be on the scrap heap because of bad decisions they have made," he continued, "Yet some how if we look up, the Bible says, 'in our weakness He is strong' if we just look up, which is what Ashley did that night out of desperation, she clutched onto Rick Warren's book and let it speak not only to Brian but to her as well. Something transcendent happen, something unexpected happened. I think the purpose of this story the purpose of this film is to inspire people not to give up on themselves or each other."
When questioned what the successful actor thought his purpose was he assuredly responded without hesitation.
"My purpose personally, I truly believe when God blesses us when God gives us our purpose, it's a purpose that should and does transcend our own lives. As God blesses you there should be an overflow that means other people are blessed by that blessing and I've seen that in Ashley Smith life," the 39 year-old said, "For me personally I try to let my work do the talking. I don't shy away from talking about my faith because I see it as a force for good, as long as I'm loving people and not judging them but letting my life speak, maybe even more so then my words. That's part of what I think my purpose is as well."
In addition to Oyelowo and Mara, "CAPTIVE" also stars Leonor Varela, Jessica Oyelowo, with Mimi Rogers and Michael K. Williams. Veteran filmmaker Jerry Jameson directed it, and the movie is based on the book 'Unlikely Angel' by Smith with Stacy Mattingly.
For more information on the 'Captive' visit captivethemovie.com, see trailer below: