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Michael Cera On Why He Loved Working With Samuel L. Jackson On Paws Of Fury - Exclusive

In the new animated film "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank," Michael Cera voices the title character, a down-on-his-luck dog who somehow finds himself a samurai in charge of protecting a small Japanese village. The only problem is that the village is populated by cats, who are naturally distrustful of canines and are thrown into an uproar by Hank's appointment.

What they and Hank don't know is that it's all part of a plan by the villainous Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) to destabilize the town so he can eventually tear it down — apparently, it's obstructing the view from his palace windows, which he can't stand.

In addition to Cera and Gervais, the star-studded cast includes George Takei, Michelle Yeoh, Djimon Hounsou, Mel Brooks — on whose 1974 comedy classic "Blazing Saddles" this movie is loosely based — and Samuel L. Jackson. The latter plays Jimbo, a washed-up samurai who reluctantly becomes Hank's trainer and eventually helps him win over the town and lead the fight against Ika Chu. (The movie was actually titled "Blazing Samurai" at one point in its development.)

Cera told Looper that getting the chance to act opposite the legendary Jackson was one of the highlights of his career — especially given the unusual circumstances.

Why Michael Cera and Samuel L. Jackson working together was unusual

Any actor would probably jump at the chance to work with Samuel L. Jackson in any capacity, but what made Michael Cera's opportunity so unusual was that, for an animated film, it was a rarity. Voice actors for animated fare often never interact in the same way they would for a live-action film. They usually come in for a day — or a few hours — and record their dialogue alone, with only the directors and crew there to feed them their cues and guide their performances.

But Cera and Jackson did spend one recording session together, and Cera said it was an absolute blast. "It was definitely helpful, and it was thrilling too," he told Looper. "Even if they didn't end up using anything from that session, it was a great afternoon in my life to get to work with that guy."

Working opposite even one other cast member gave them more room to experiment. "You can fool around a little more," he explained. "I wish we had a chance to do more of it because when you're working with someone for the first time, you start picking up on their rhythms, and it starts to feel really good. I'm glad we had a chance to do that, especially with [Jackson]."

Cera added that he "would've loved" a chance for more of the cast to record together, especially since "Paws of Fury" was a few years in the making. "I had a Zoom conversation with Ricky Gervais about a year ago, and we talked about this movie and said, 'One day, people are going to see it,' because we had been working on it for so long. It's exciting that it's finally coming out."

"Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" is now playing exclusively in theaters.