CORNELIUS – “Background action,” a voice yells through a megaphone.
“Bang! Bang!” the same voice shouts.
On cue, about a dozen people dressed as police and SWAT team members run into position in a parking lot at One Norman Square Apartments. Their guns pointed at a building entrance.
“Brian Nichols, this is Lt. John Chestnut with the Atlanta Police Department,” actor Michael K. Williams shouts through a megaphone while leaning against a SWAT vehicle. He beckons Brian Nichols, played by David Oyelowo, to come out and surrender.
The filming equipment and slew of crew members around the scene buffered the moment’s intensity, which will be thick as it unfolds on screen.
For one night in October and three days in November, the Cornelius apartment complex was bustling with actors, film crew members, equipment, trailers, trucks and lighting. The scene being recreated? When Nichols took Ashley Smith hostage in her Atlanta, Ga., apartment in March 2005.
The movie, “Captive,” will tell the story based on events that occurred on March 11, 2005, when Nichols, who was being charged for rape and kidnapping, broke out of the courthouse jail and fatally shot the judge hearing his case, the court reporter, sheriff’s deputy and an FBI officer. While being the target of a state-wide manhunt, Nichols takes Smith (played by Kate Mara), a single mother struggling with drug addiction, hostage in her apartment.
The crew filmed two major actions at One Norman Square: the exterior shots of Nichols taking Smith into her apartment, and when the police track him down at the apartment.
“It’s a very large scene with FBI, the police department, helicopters, all that stuff that was going on that lead up to his surrender,” Producer Terry Botwick said.
The apartment complex and its residents were fantastic to work with during the filming, he added. While roads were not closed for filming, residents often found themselves having to maneuver around pieces of the set and park at distances further than normal.
“For the residents who live there, I’m sure for five minutes it’s exciting to see a film crew there, but after a while, you’re like 'I want to get to my parking space,'” he said with a chuckle. “We’ve gotten a lot of great cooperation from everybody.”
Senior Property Manager Quenna Moutselos said she hadn’t heard of any resident complaints while the filming took place and that the production team was on top of every detail, making it a smooth process.
Present each day filming took place, Moutselos got to watch the action unfold from the director’s vantage point and got to meet some of the key actors.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “It was great exposure for Charlotte, (and) for Cornelius, for that matter.”
The crew also filmed at the courthouse in Charlotte and used the U.S. Marshall’s section of the building for the police headquarters in the movie. Judge Frank Whitney, who approved the filming in the federal building, and his daughters will make a small appearance in a crowd scene.