Ten years after fear gripped Atlanta for 26 hours, a film based on the true story about Brian Nichols' rampage and his hostage Ashley Smith is opening in theaters.
In March 2005, Nichols, who was on trial for rape, overpowered a deputy and broke out of the Fulton County courthouse. He killed four people that day and eluded authorities while an intense manhunt was underway.
The majority of the PG-13 film Captive recreates the seven hours he held 26-year-old Smith hostage in her Duluth apartment.
When the credits roll, the movie dedicated to Nichols' victims. That tribute was important to movie producer and actor David Oyelowo, who portrays the dark role of Nichols.
"It was crucial because sometimes the accusations that can be leveled against Hollywood, and sometimes rightly, is that we can be accused of exploiting a situation like this for monetary gain," Oyelowo said. "And that was never my interest or a desire of mine. I genuinely want the film to pay tribute to those who lost their lives that day."
While the film captures so much of Atlanta, it was not shot in Georgia. Oyelowo says they initially tried, but "this is a tough story on Atlanta."
Instead, filming took place for two months last fall in Charlotte.
Ashley Smith, who is portrayed by Kate Mara in the movie, said she's seen the movie 10 times.
"Every time I've watched it, I'm holding my breath the whole time," Smith said. "And I lived it, so it's surprising to feel that way."
Ten years ago, Smith said her life was "a complete mess." Addicted to drugs, the widowed 26-year-old also lost custody of her daughter. She says God was with her *that* night in March 2005.
"He reached down into the pits of hell that my life had become that night and said, ‘I love you and I'm not done with you,'" Smith said.
She says, while hard to believe, she wasn't paying much attention while Atlanta was on lockdown until the 33-year-old appeared outside her Duluth apartment.
"He kept saying, ‘Do you know who I am, have you been watching the news?' And I'm like, ‘I don't know who you are,'" Smith said. And then he took his hat off and he said, ‘Brian Nichols.' And I'm like, wait, I'm like, that's the same man I saw in the mug shot earlier."
Initially tied up, Smith says Nichols removed the binds and asked her to prepare meth she had at home.
"I did not do the drugs. I never thought about doing the drug," Smith said. "I knew that there was a chance I was going to meet my maker and whether I was given 5 minutes to live or 50 years, I was never going to touch those drugs again….I did not want to go to heaven and know that I had just done drugs up my nose. I wanted to at least go to heaven and say, God, one time I said no."
Unknowingly in survival mode, Smith says eventually she started reading "A Purpose Driven Life" to herself and out loud.
"I think he didn't hurt me because I began to look at him through the eyes of God," Smith said. And I began to see he was a sinner saved by God's grace. And I was a sinner saved by God's grace. I tried to get different things and find a common ground between us."
Remarried 8 years ago, Smith lives what she calls a quiet life in North Augusta, South Carolina with her daughter, now 16, her husband's daughter and their 4-year-old son.
Smith now works as an X-ray technician. The 37-year-old says she hasn't had any contact with Nichols.
"I've always wanted God to be very bold in the way he would tell me if there was a need for any more contact whether that be through letter, going to visit, whatever," Smith said. "My husband met the Lord in prison so I know that people in prison need Jesus too. If I were to reach out to him that would be my main question. Is he doing with his second chance what he should be? I feel that God possibly gave him a second chance to help other people in prison. So that's kind of a question that I would like to know. But I don't have any solid plans on anything as of yet."
Smith said her husband served "two or three years in prison and that's where he met the Lord. And when he came out, he too was a totally different person."
Smith's faith is everything to her -- it's how she survived being held captive by Nichols, captive by drugs and is behind her redemption and calling.
Captive opens Friday nationwide, but there is a special screenings Thursday night around town.