If a mystery plague had caused the undead to rise up and swarm over 19th Century Hertfordshire how do you think our prim and proper ancestors would have faired?

Well, we're about to find out in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which sees our county become a war zone and Jane Austen's beloved characters swapping bonnets for bayonets as they seek to defend themselves from flesh-eating monsters.

But the film's links to this area are more than just fantasy.

Scenes for the mash-up movie, based on the 2009 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, were filmed in Old Hatfield, around Fore Street, and at our own Hatfield House, which has been transformed into the grand Rosings Park, home of the snooty Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

The man responsible for turning actors into gruesome zombies is double Oscar winning make-up artist Mark Coulier who is based in St Albans.

And former Tring Park School pupil Lily James plays kick-ass heroine Elizabeth Bennet, the woman who 'would never relinquish her sword for a ring'. She must use her Chinese fighting skills to dispatch her bloody foes, while warding off snobbery from the Japanese-trained Bingleys and verbally sparring with the infuriating Mr Darcy.

She tells us more about the comedy horror below.

On falling for the screenplay after seven pages...

“It was so well written, and Burr has done a great job with it,” she notes. “I loved it. Pride and Prejudice has been done so many times, and so successfully, that I think I’d never attempt it, but when you add zombies it becomes an interesting challenge and we’ve all embraced it together.”

On Hertfordshire...

“In between London and Hertfordshire, in our story, there’s huge area called ‘The In Between’, which is a sort of post-apocalypse dead zone where there are still zombies. Hertfordshire and London are protected, but as the film starts the zombies have infiltrated Hertfordshire and we’re at war.”

On transforming the character...

James knew the Austen novel well, since first reading it in school. This added a level of challenge for the actress. “My main struggle throughout the shoot has been marrying the Liz Bennet that I’m so familiar with and this version of the martial artist, Elizabeth Bennet.”

In fact, occasionally James eschewed Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet entirely for the sword-wielding, roundhouse kicking zombie nemesis Liz Bennet.

“I tried to stay faithful to Jane Austen’s character but at times I had to let it go because Liz is a lot fiercer, at an angrier place in her life and well, more badass. The story starts identically – living at home with her mum and dad, all the girls unmarried, struggling with the issues they did back then which was unless they were married off they were potentially penniless – except with the the threat of zombies, a war, total annihilation as the backdrop. Lizzie is so multidimensional and so wonderfully flawed and beautifully intelligent and ahead of her time, and playing that is already a huge challenge. Add to that the fact that there are zombies running around…”

On her love interest...

“I can’t imagine anyone else playing Darcy now,” says James of co-star Sam Riley . “He’s just perfect, because he’s kept the qualities of Darcy – the brooding, internal sort of thing where you just long to know what he’s really thinking – but then you see him fight and it makes it much sexier. The tension between Liz and Darcy is escalated tenfold by the fact they’re able to take it out on each other physically.”

On the fighting snobbery...

“They’re slightly out-there,” says Lily of the Bennets. “They’re the rogue kids for training in China and this snobbishness comes into play with Bingley. There’s a funny battle between me and Caroline Bingley, where I speak Chinese and she speaks Japanese.”

She adds: “They’re basically martial arts heroes. We had to do a lot of training with Maurice Lee, the stunt coordinator, to try and look like we knew how to hold a sword. And I think we all embraced it fully and became martial artists.”

On the challenges of the genre...

“Inevitably the dialogue comes out in a way you can’t control, and if you’re fighting your dialogue reflects that – it’s angry. In the end you really do stop thinking about what you’re saying, which is a relief, as an actor, because stuff is just happening automatically.”

She says of the formidable Bennet sisters: “When we’re together it’s like we’re this girl band. I feel like we’re the Spice Girls, but we can fight and we’re the ones that rescue the men. We’re the strong characters. It’s been really bonding for us to play.”

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is released on Friday (Feb 12).