When Hollywood came to town for filming of spy thriller

The film production crew outside the St John's Church

The film production crew outside St John's Church in Hatfield during filming of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Credit: Archant

A Russian sleeper agent activated in a Hatfield church.

An FBI agent stabbed in his car near to a parade of shops. 

These were the scenes in Hatfield nine years ago when Hollywood came to town to film sequences for an action thriller.

Artificial light streams into the church

Light streams into St John's Church for filming of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in 2012. - Credit: Archant

While film crews regularly use Hatfield House and the Hertfordshire stately home's gardens and extensive parkland, the unlikely location for this shoot was the High View shops in South Hatfield.

The Hilltop area is currently undergoing a massive regeneration programme.

And the district's curved row of shops and St John's Church underwent their own transformation in September 2012 when filmmakers rolled into Hatfield for filming of what was to become a pivotal sequence in movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.


Chris Pine as Jack Ryan in Moscow in a scene from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Credit: Paramount Pictures 2014 / Larry Horricks

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Pine as the eponymous covert CIA analyst, the spy thriller can be seen on E4 at 9pm on Friday, January 8.

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Although most of the spy movie is split between America and Russia, a corner of Hatfield 5,420 miles from Hollywood makes it onto the big screen – after a makeover to convert it into a metropolitan area of US city Detroit.

Based on characters created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, CIA analyst-turned-action hero Jack Ryan uncovers a Russian plot to crash the US economy with a terrorist attack.

The High View shops in Hatfield which appear in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

The High View shops in Hatfield which appear in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Credit: Alan Davies

Chris Pine, best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboots and Steve Trevor in the recent Wonder Woman filmstakes on the mantle of Jack Ryan in the blockbuster.

At the time, he was the fourth actor to play the role on screen, following in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, who appeared as the character in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in 1992’s Patriot Games and 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, and Ben Affleck in 2002’s The Sum of All Fears.

The recent Amazon Prime Video Jack Ryan TV series has John Krasinski in the title role.

Eagle-eyed viewers will recognise the High View shops and surrounding area masquerading as Dearborn midway through the Chris Pine film.

A strange juxtaposition in erstaz America

A strange juxtaposition at the High View shops near The Harrier pub as Hatfield doubles for Dearborn in America for scenes of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. - Credit: Archant

The shops were given a facelift with new signs, an American call box was strategically positioned, and water hydrants placed along High View to match the now American setting. 

American motors, including a Buick and Lincoln Town Car with Michigan number plates, were also parked along High View and outside St John's as church-goers enter the striking Hatfield building in the movie.

A slice of Americana in Hertfordshire

American props waiting to be positioned during filming of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in Hatfield, Hertfordshire - Credit: Archant

The majority of the action that Thursday in September 2012 was centred around the church, with large lighting cranes illuminating the 1950s building, although CGI disguises the surrounding skyline in the finished product to make it look like Midwestern America rather than a university town in mid Herts.

The inside of St John’s, with its roof sloping virtually to the ground, features in the espionage thriller, which also stars Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh and Keira Knightley.

The Jack Ryan crew on set outside St John's Church in Hatfield.

The Jack Ryan crew on set outside St John's Church in Hatfield. - Credit: Archant

The distinctive parish church in High View, off Bishops Rise, doubles for the Russian Orthodox Church St Uriel the Archangel in the Paramount feature.

It is here where the Russian ‘Lamentations’ terrorist plot is activated. 

Sleeper agent Aleksandr Borovsky (Alec Utgoff) – who is actually the son of Branagh's character, Russian villain Viktor Cherevin – is central to this plot thread.

The antagonist attends a church service held in St Uriel with his foster parents. In response to the Russian priest saying "the prodigal returns", Aleksandr's foster father, Mr Borovsky (Bogdan Kominowski), says: "He may not be a regular church-goers but he's a good man, my son. Just turned 21."

St John's Church in Hatfield which featured in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as Russian Orthodox Church St Uriel the Archangel

St John's Church in Hatfield which featured in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as Russian Orthodox Church St Uriel the Archangel - Credit: Alan Davies

Mrs Borovsky (Maggie Daniels) then reveals where Aleksandr works. As the family take their seats at the back of the church, Mr Borovsky says in Russian: "It was stupid to mention the job."

"A real mother would," she replies. Mr Borovsky responds: "It was unnecessary."

The priest then starts reading from the Book of Lamentations, chapter two. 

An American motor parked up in the street

An American Lincoln motor parked up in the street in High View during filming of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Credit: Archant

Mr Borovsky states: "We've been activated." Mrs Borovsky says: "Thank God."

Aleksandr, watched by an FBI agent, later returns to the shops near the church.

Sensing he is being shadowed, he runs through the alleyway from the shops into High View and knifes the special law-enforcement agent in the neck as he sits at the wheel of his car.

He then travels to New York to continue with his assignment of blowing up Wall Street.

Filming taking place in Hatfield

The scene of filming Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in High View, Hatfield, in 2012. - Credit: Alan Davies

High View and Northdown Road near the church were effectively closed for location filming as the area was transformed by filmmakers into a dead ringer for Detroit.

Although none of the movie's A-listers appear in the scenes filmed in High View, Chris Pine did come to Hatfield a few years later for filming of the first Wonder Woman movie.

You can see Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit on E4 - Sky channel 135, Freeview 13, and Virgin 106 - at 9pm on Friday, January 8.

The High View shops

The High View shops this summer. Russian sleeper agent Aleksandr Borovsky is seen running along this parade of shops in movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Credit: Alan Davies

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