Clark Collis
April 12, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Ryan Reynolds voices a snail named Turbo, who, after a freak accident gives him superspeed, tries to fulfill his dream of entering the Indianapolis 500. So how exactly do you get the famously chiseled Reynolds to play one of the animal kingdom’s squirmier critters? ”I pitched him the idea just after he became PEOPLE’s sexiest man of the year,” says director and co-writer David Soren. ”I was very nervous, but the very first thing out of his mouth was ‘I can’t wait to be a snail!”’

Other actors keen to get their shell on include Maya Rudolph, Snoop Lion, and Samuel L. Jackson, who play a group of gung ho racing snails (Soren’s original pitch for the movie was ”The Fast and the Furious with snails”). Since the real-life Indy 500 is raced by people in cars rather than by mollusks, the film features human characters like racing champ Guy Gagné (Bill Hader) and a Turbo-assisting taco salesman voiced by Michael Pe¨a. ”I have to go to great lengths to make sure he’s able to race,” says Pe¨a. ”Because, after all, he is a snail.”

But how will Turbo go down in France, where people are more accustomed to eating snails than cheering them on? ”Well, if it works, I feel sorry for some restaurant owners who have escargot on the menu,” says Soren. ”They may lose some business.”

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