Forget Hollywood heartthrob Chris Pine and stunning English rose Keira Knightley, Hatfield is the star you should be focussing on in new blockbuster Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Because while the film, is big, bold and full of American brashness, director Kenneth Branagh decided the town’s quirky St John’s Church was perfect for a major pivotal scene and the neighbouring Hilltop Shopping Centre should be cast as a quaint American town.

You will see the landmark South Hatfield place of worship on the big screen, portrayed as a church in Michigan, USA where an old Russian Orthodox priest utters the sermon that contains a secret code designed to activate Russian sleeper cells living covertly in the US, thus setting off a perilous chain of events on both sides of the Atlantic.

The big budget espionage thriller is based on the character of Jack Ryan created by Tom Clancy and follows the young covert CIA analyst (Chris Pine) as he uncovers a Russian plot to crash the US economy with a terrorist attack.

It’s not surprising the church, built in the late 1950s, caught the eye of filmmakers with its unique design and striking cross of coloured glass.

The film crew arrived in September 2012.

“It was very exciting to meet Sir Kenneth Brannagh and have him at the church directing the filming and to watch him working from close up,” says Reverend Fiona K Wheatley.

“The filming took three days in all and in beautiful autumn sunshine. The church was changed into a Russian Orthodox church (St Uriel the Archangel) in Dearborn a suburb in America and was the scene where a Russian Sleeper was activated.

“Further chase scenes were filmed in the adjacent shops, the area and church are clearly identifiable to those who live locally.

Fiona has put the money she received to good use. “The monies that were paid to the chuch were used to help replace our antiquated heating system.

The 25 local shops in Hilltop Shopping Centre, High View and Northdown Road, were transformed to look like the American town of Dearborn, Michigan with temporary shopfronts, US advertising hoardings, fire hydrants and even Lincoln cars parked outside.

Continuing the theme of keeping it local, German-Russian actor Erich Redman, who lives just down the road in Abbots Langley, plays the priest. He says of his character: “He’s called the ancient priest. I had a big, grey beard, The costume was amazing, made with silver and gold fibres.”

Erich got to work closely with Branagh. “He was a really nice guy,“ says Erich, who has also had parts in Rush, Saving Private Ryan and The Illusionist.

“He was a little bit grumpy in the morning, but by midday he was absolutely charming. He shot most of the scenes from the back of the church.“

Creative England’s production services team helped facilitate the filming in Hatfield, working closely with Film Friendly Partners and Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to organise road closures, parking and shutting 25 shops for the shoot.

Natalie Burrows, communications officer at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council says: “The council was very pleased to welcome the filming of Paramount Pictures’ Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in Hatfield in 2012.

“We are a film-friendly council which recognises the economic benefits to our local economy that filming brings, and the interest it generates.“

Filming in the area may see a boom in the coming months after the Queen gave Royal Assent to Hertfordshire County Council’s Filming on the Highways Bill on Thursday. Hertfordshire is only the second local authority in the country to gain the powers which enable it to close roads for filming and issue permissions to place filming equipment on the highway.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is on general release