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For director Eva Longoria, ‘Flamin’ Hot’ is bigger than the Cheetos origin story


Opening Saturday in Austin, Texas, the new film “Flamin’ Hot” tells the story of Richard Montañez, who rose from janitor to executive at Frito-Lay and has long claimed to have invented the popular flavor of Flamin’ hot snacks. Hot Cheetos. .

The film is the fictional directorial debut of Eva Longoria and will begin streaming June 9 on Hulu. (Watch an exclusive clip from the film below.)

Starring Jesse Garcia as Montañez, the film follows its protagonist from his early days as a petty criminal to his low-level job at a Frito-Lay plant in California, where he finally makes a fateful phone call to the CEO of the company. PepsiCo parent company, Roger Enrico. (Tony Shalhoub). Also starring Annie Gonzalez as Montañez’s wife, Judy, with Dennis Haysbert and Matt Walsh as fellow factory workers, the film is a spirited, living, modern fable about perseverance, self-belief and overcoming of adversities.

It has also been overshadowed by a Times hit story refuting Montañez’s account of his role in the origin of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, published in 2021 when the film was already in development. However, the project went ahead.

“That story never affected us,” Longoria said in a recent phone interview. “It seems like the LA Times would have better resources dedicated to more important things.

“We never set out to tell the Cheeto story,” he said. “We are telling the story of Richard Montañez and we are telling the truth about him.”

However, as an investigation by the Frito-Lay company cited in The Times article concluded, “We value Richard’s many contributions to our company, especially his knowledge of Hispanic consumers, but we do not credit the creation of Flamin’. Hot Cheetos or any Flamin’ Hot products for him.”

In particular, Longoria cited as evidence of Montañez’s involvement a PepsiCo Statement released after the publication of The Times story in which the company responded to public outcry over its initial description of the story as an “urban legend”.

But the statement, while affirming Montañez’s other contributions to the company, did not dispute The Times’ reports, reiterating that PepsiCo was unable to “make a clear link” between Montañez’s story and the team whose “spicy offering” was “market proven”. and found (its) way into permanent products on store shelves, including Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”

When asked for further comment on Longoria’s unsubstantiated claims about Montañez’s version of the story and PepsiCo’s response, a representative for Searchlight Pictures, which produced the film, referred The Times to an interview with Longoria published by the People magazine in January. in which he also stated“We were never telling the Cheeto story.”

Longoria prefers to focus on the indisputable fact of Montañez’s rise through the ranks of the company and his role in developing marketing geared specifically to Latino consumers: “His genius was the fact that he knew the Hispanic market and knew how to mobilize it.”

“Richard’s story is our story. We are all Richard Montañez,” he said. “There was a time in our lives when someone said, ‘No, no, no. Ideas don’t come from people like you. ‘No no no. That job is not for someone who looks like you. ‘No no no. I don’t think you’re very qualified for that. And I think we’ll all relate to his perseverance and his belief in himself. How he was just like, ‘Why not?’ He dared to ask: ‘But why not me?’”

Jesse Garcia in “Flamin’ Hot.”

(Emily Aragones / Searchlight Pictures)

The project originated around 2017, when producer DeVon Franklin met Montañez and promised to bring his story to the screen. The project was created in Searchlight with a draft script written by Lewis Colick. With dozens of directors vying for the project, Longoria ultimately won the job. Writer Linda Yvette Chávez, whose credits include the series “Gentefied” and the upcoming adaptation of “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” was hired to revise the script.

Although he is still best known as an actor, most notably on the series “Desperate Housewives,” Longoria has also been increasingly active behind the camera. Having made several short films, he has also directed episodes of numerous series including “Jane the Virgin”, “black-ish” and “Gordita Chronicles” and directed the documentary feature “La Guerra Civil”, which premiered at the Festival Sundance Film Festival 2022..

For Franklin, Longoria was a clear choice to lead the project.

“The last thing I wanted to do was make a movie that didn’t honor the community that we were trying to celebrate,” Franklin said. “So, Eva brought the specificity, the vision, and she also brought the commerciality. Her vision was to make a commercial movie that had comedy and heart.”

We never told the story of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. We told the story of Richard Montañez.

— Eva Longoria on her directorial debut, ‘Flamin’ Hot’

Even knowing that she was up against more experienced directors while trying to land the job, Longoria remained convinced that she was the best fit for the project.

“I really felt like I was the only person who could tell this story because I am Chicana, because I am from the Mexican American community, because I understood the struggles that the family faced and that our community faces,” she said. “So when I approached the film, whether it was casting or casting, authenticity was my lodestar. I was like, ‘This is my superpower. I know this world.

“I know we put Tapatío in our spaghetti, that’s something my dad does. The green sauce goes in this taco,” Longoria said. “And some of those things that people can miss and not really realize, but the rhythm of the language, the culture of our species and our food, the way we dress, those things mattered.”

A woman before the director's camera.

Eva Longoria on the set of “Flamin’ Hot.”

(Emily Aragones / Searchlight Pictures)

As shown in the film, the Mexican American community has forged a particular connection to the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, including Longoria.

“I like to say that this is not a PepsiCo product, it is our product,” Longoria said. “The Hispanic community popularized this product, we turned it into a pop culture phenomenon. This is our product. It’s not your product.”

Added Longoria: “I don’t know if there’s a Mexican who doesn’t eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He didn’t even know there were regular Cheetos. I grew up eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. And one day I bought a bag and I was like, ‘Ugh, these taste weird. And they were regular Cheetos. I was like, ‘Are there regular Cheetos?’”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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