Hollywood stars David Oyelowo and Kate Mara recently joined speaker and author Ashley Smith to discuss their new film, Captive, and revealed how the story's message of hope and redemption individually impacted their lives.
Captive, which opens nationwide September 18, is based on Smith's memoir "Unlikely Angel." Oyelowo stars as Brian Nichols, a convicted felon who, in March 2005, escaped jail, murdered four people and injured others before holding drug addict Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment. However, after Smith read to Nichols from Warren's best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, Nichols decided to release her and peacefully surrendered to police.
When Nichols overtook her, Smith was struggling with a devastating drug addiction. However, after she refused Nichols' offer of meth during the hostage ordeal, God delivered her from the addiction that had destroyed her life and caused her to lose custody of her daughter.
"It's truly miraculous," Oyelowo said of the series of events. "I mean, Brian Nichols broke out of a courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia - that's 45 minute drive away from Duluth, Georgia. Ashley Smith had moved into that apartment the night before and they find themselves together for 7 hours, both broken - meth addict, murderer - she had never read The Purpose Driven Life before, not really, not in depth. That was the night, out of desperation, she read it to him and never touched the drug again. Something about it feels like it was ordained and divine."
Oyelowo, who is an Academy-award nominated actor and outspoken Christian, says Smith's story is a true example of how God's purpose for our lives is always bigger than we envision.
"What it reaffirms to me is that no one is beyond redemption," he said. "Ashley Smith thought that she had messed up too much. She thought, when Brian Nichols broken into her apartment that night, it was God's way of saying, 'You deserve death.' Actually, the opposite was true - it was the point where she gained life. We've all been in situations we wish we hadn't and made choices we wish we hadn't, and I think no one is beyond redemption."
Today, Smith, who is remarried and has regained custody of her daughter, works as an inspirational speaker and shares her story of hope and redemption to help others with similar struggles.
"I want people to know it's never too late to turn your life around," she said. "God has a plan for all of us; we just have to be willing to lay down our brokenness. That's all I did in my apartment that night, was lay down my brokenness and let God change me. If He did it for me, He'll do it for anybody else."
When asked how she was able to talk Nichols into surrendering, Smith said God enabled her to view the convicted killer through the eyes of Jesus.
"Some people might not be struggling from drug addiction, but we all have things in life that we struggle with," she said. "I think when we just lay it before God and give it to Him, He'll completely change us. I saw Brian Nichols through the eyes of Jesus that night, and I think we all need to take a look at different people through the eyes of Jesus. I think we'll find that we're all just broken people looking for hope."
While Captive is an overtly Christian film, Mara, who plays Ashley Smith, says it will resonate with people of all faiths, as everyone has experienced hopelessness at some point in their lives.
"Anybody who has struggled with anything in their lives could relate to that feeling of helplessness and that need for some sort of guidance or help and knowing that if you just sort of hang on, hopefully there will be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "I love that no matter what religion you are, you can completely relate to this story."
While the film's themes of hope and redemption will always be relevant, Oyelowo said its message is particularly timely amid ongoing racial tension in the United States.
"I think it's always a perfect time for a story about redemption and hope and the possibility of a second chance to be out there, but we're in a time of racial tension in the country as well," he said. "So, a circumstance where a black man and a white woman - both on a downward spiral in their lives - manage to come together in a way that leads to a breakthrough for both of them...I mean, there's no denying that Brian Nichols broke lives that are still broken today from what he did, but there's a chance that the murderous tirade he was on could have continued, and Ashley Smith wouldn't be with us now."
He added, "I somehow think the compassion she showed him that night is what helped him turn a corner and effectively changed her life. That's really a great redemptive story."