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Ashley Smith Is No Longer "Captive"
Ashley Smith Is No Longer "Captive"

Ashley Smith Is No Longer "Captive"

By Jacob Sahms

Captive tells the real-life story of Ashley Smith, who was held hostage for seven hours by rapist and serial killer Brian Nichols. Paramount’s film version stars David Oyelowo (Selma) as Nichols and Kate Mara (Fantastic Four) as Smith in a captivating thriller that grips you and refuses to let go. Just weeks before the film’s full theatrical release, ChristianCinema.com caught up with Ashley Smith Robinson, a married mother and public speaker, who still resides in Atlanta, Ga.

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I opened the interview by admitting that if director Jerry Jameson’s film is an accurate retelling of the hostage situation, that I’m simply amazed. Robinson chuckled, “The film absolutely meets my expectations! People wanted to make it into a film as soon as it happened. Over the years, it was going to be a Lifetime film or made here or there. My family prayed over it.”

“We decided that if Hollywood would make it something else, or not have God in it, then we just wouldn’t let it be made. I hope that it will touch one person, and remind them that there’s meaning for their life. I want them to know that there’s nothing that we’ve done that could keep God from loving us. That it’s never too late to be restored. I believed those things for a really long time but I take comfort in the fact that when I gave my brokenness and bad decisions to God, that God hung them on the cross.”

Ten years later, Robinson said that Paramount Pictures did exactly what she wanted. “They glorified God in it, and there are just so many “God winks” throughout the film. It was like God was saying, ‘See, I’m here.’ This is totally God’s film,” Robinson said. “Some of the actors have massive faiths, and just getting to talk to them on set, people like David Oyelowo or Michael K. Williams, highlighted what we were doing.”

Robinson has seen the film ten times since it was finished, and I asked her what feelings that invoked. “You would think that I’d felt everything I could, because I was there,” she replied. “But I watched it again last Saturday, and I sat there on the edge of my seat and cried. I think in a way, it’s very good for me. It’s a reminder of who I was and what I did, and it’s why I continue to share my story publicly.”

The subject moved to the unique involvement of Pastor Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life in the story, and Robinson shared that she had actually picked up the book thirty days before she was held hostage. Robinson, at the time addicted to methamphetamines, has admitted that she was facing a dark point in her life. “I was battling this addiction, and that night I had to make the decision whether I would use drugs with him or not,” she said. “As a I result of standing up to my demons and giving God’s control, I felt the need for more from the Word of God. I realized I hadn’t read the reading for the day and I asked Brian if it would be okay to read it. He said, absolutely, as long as I read it out loud.”

Later that evening, Robinson remembers feeling like God had taken control of Brian, that she wasn’t in control anymore either. “I began to feel hope when I made that decision not to do drugs with Brian,” Robinson said. “I felt like God was asking me if I wanted a different life. It felt like it was my last chance.”

I recount to Robinson how Oyelowo has said that the difference maker in the situation was that she treated Nichols like he was a human, not a monster. “I told someone the other day that I dont know if it’s a curse or a blessing but God has given me this: I’ve always tried to put myself in other people’s shoes. It’s why I stayed doing drugs, because I would look at Paige and wonder what it was going to be like for her to grow up and not know the one man who loved her so much [after her father was stabbed by his old gang]. It could have made me a better mother but it didn’t.”

“When I met Brian, I found myself wondering what it was like to be locked up and then set free. In his case, he wasn’t set free but he made himself free, and he wanted to see his son. What would I have done to make that happen? So, I tried to treat him with kindness and respect, and I hoped that he would treat me the same way.”

Since the day Nichols held her hostage, Robinson has never spoken to him. She testified at his trial but they never made eye contact. “I always prayed that if God wanted me to have contact with him, that I would,” she volunteered. “Recently, since watching the film, I felt a nudge to write him but I haven’t done it yet.”

 

Those kinds of nudges are what drive Smith to share her story, and to agree to make the movie. “The other day at Paramount, someone walked up to me and said, ‘I’m not even a Christian, and that made me cry!’ It’s not about making people cry but I hope the story makes them feel something, see something bigger. I hope it helps them see God in the world,” she mused. “That would make this all worthwhile.”

Captive is in theaters on Friday, September 11.


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