When it comes to their Flamin’ Hot Cheetos credo, Eva Longoria and Jesse Garcia couldn’t be more different.
“I grew up with them [so much] that the first time I had a regular Cheeto I thought there was something wrong with the bag,” says Longoria, the actress-filmmaker-snack connoisseur who directs Flaming hot — the inspiring new drama about the creator of the popular puff pastry.
As for Garcia, “Jesse had never had a Flamin’ Hot until that point in the movie [where he first tests it]Longoria reveals. Garcia’s inexperience with the snack is all the more astonishing considering he plays Richard Montañez, the real-life Frito-Lay janitor who is credited with inventing the street corn-inspired spin and pitching the idea to corporate bosses to finish their chips. brighten up as a way of appealing to the country’s growing Latino population.
Then in 2019 it was announced that Longoria would direct Flaming hot – inspired by Montañez’s 2013 book A boy, a burrito and a cookie and filmed by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez — social media were (surprise, surprise) skeptical. “This is impossibly real” and “please say ‘psych'” were among the typical ones comments.
But skeptics didn’t know the underdog story at the core of the film.
“We’re not making a movie about the history of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto,” Longoria says now. “We are making a film about this man’s incredible life and how he overcame all this adversity and not only survived, but thrived nonetheless. And that’s interesting to watch and that’s why the film resonates with so many people.” (Flaming hot debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in March and won the Audience Award.)
Longoria, best known for the long-running ABC drama Desperate housewives, did not know about Montañez when the project first crossed her path. “I was really embarrassed that I didn’t know the story before I read the script,” she says. “I was like, ‘How can I not know this? He is Mexican American like me. I like Flamin’ Hot.’ So it was like the flavor you knew but not the story, and so I was immediately inspired and I thought, ‘Everybody should know this story. There are so many lessons we can learn from his life.’”
Annie Gonzalez, de generated actress who plays Richard’s wife, Judy Montañez, had heard whispers of the story growing up in East LA with a relative who worked at PepsiCo, owner of Frito-Lay. “But I didn’t know the whole story until I read the script,” she says. “I was like, ‘Yo, this is wild. I want to do it!'”
Same for Garcia (QuinceaneraNarcos: Mexico): “I knew bits and pieces of it. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s going to make a dope movie or TV series. And whoever gets that becomes a mega star.’”
While Montañez has long touted his role in the snack’s creation, doubling down on the origin story with his 2021 memoir, Flamin’ Hot: One Man’s Incredible True Story‘s Rise from caretaker to CEOan investigation by the Los Angeles Times that same year cast doubt on his claims, citing interviews with Frito-Lay employees and a statement from the company calling his story an “urban legend.” Still, Montañez has been embraced by Frito-Lay, who has risen up the corporate ladder to marketing manager.
As he puts his spicy spin on their product at Frito-Lay in the film, Montañez speaks passionately about how underserved the Mexican and larger Latino population in the US is. Those pleas certainly resonate with Longoria. In recent weeks, she has spoken candidly about how rare it is for Latina filmmakers to direct big Hollywood movies, noting that the movie audience is 28 percent Latino — yet still largely ignored by mainstream releases.
“Now we’ve done our part,” she tells us. “We showed up, we wrote the script, we made the movie, we edited it. Now it’s the marketing of it and really making sure that the machine of Hollywood is behind this movie, jus
t like they’re behind every other movie.
“And getting our community to do their part and show up too. Because our community is saying very loudly that we want more representation. And so I hope loudness translates into showing up, because when they show up, studios are like, ‘Oh, okay. This is a formidable audience that we can create for and for.” … And so this movie is about us and for us and by us. And I hope our own community will show up and say, ‘Yeah, we want to see more of it.’”
Flaming hot premieres Friday, June 9 on Hulu.
Watch the trailer: