Flamin’ Hot director Eva Longoria says her movie about former Frito-Lay janitor Richard Montañez has legs whether or not he is actually the real inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Longoria recently addressed the controversy that arose when The Los Angeles Times reported in 2021 that they’d interviewed several people who worked at Frito-Lay — and even spokespersons for the company itself — and all of them said there’s little truth to his viral story about coming up with a genius idea for the popular spicy snack and courageously pitching it to executives.
“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay said in a statement to The Times. “We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.”
Montañez still maintains that he invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto.
Eva Longoria Says The L.A. Times Story Had ‘Zero Effect’ On Her Movie Flamin’ Hot
Longoria says that the L.A. Times story simply didn’t matter to her while she was making her movie about him.
“That article had zero effect on the movie we were telling,” Longoria recently told Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve always been telling Richard Montañez’s story, and we’re telling his truth. We weren’t making a movie about the history of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. We’re telling the story of Richard Montañez.”
To be clear, Frito-Lay didn’t totally throw Montañez under the bus, calling him “an important part of PepsiCo’s history and the success of the company.”
And for the record, Longoria still believes Montañez.
“When I met Richard, I remember he was so funny and witty. He’ll tell you, he’s the smartest uneducated man you’ll ever meet, because you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s not educated, but man, he’s smart and profound,'” she said.
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“I knew immediately I wanted to put the movie in his point of view, from his perspective. And the minute we did that, we had creative liberty to do whatever we wanted. We’re in his mind, we’re in his heart.”
Flamin’ Hot even addresses the idea that some of Montañez’s story could be exaggerated.
Referring to a scene in the movie, Longoria said, “I thought, ‘Oh my God, wouldn’t it be funny if we did a boardroom meeting and everybody’s talking like cholos?’ because that’s what Richard thought that they spoke like. And wouldn’t it be funny if he exaggerates how he first met [late PepsiCo CEO Roger] Enrico, and then we showed the reality? We already had all that in the script, so that article changed nothing. You know what I mean? It was like, no, we’re telling Richard’s story and this is how he remembers it.”
Flamin’ Hot stars Jesse Garcia as Richard Montañez, telling the story of how he channeled his Mexican-American heritage into the creation of one of the most popular and beloved snacks in the world. Garcia, who plays Montañez, says he takes him at his word.
“He’ll talk about this way better than I could, and I won’t even get into it, but he’s got a paper trail,” Garcia told Newsweek. “He was in the room and we got the powers that be stamps of approval. No matter what anybody does or whatever story anybody tells it, there’s always going to be someone that wants to tear it down, or there’s some force or whatever it is, but at the end of the day, it’s a beautiful story, like you said, and I think it impacts people in a way that we haven’t seen in a while.
Flamin’ Hot is now streaming on Hulu.
Main Image: Jesse Garcia as Richard Montañez in Flamin’ Hot, courtesy of Hulu.