The movie version behind a favorite spicy snack is streaming now

Eva Longoria makes her film directorial debut streaming Friday with “Flamin’ Hot” — a feel-good story of how a Mexican American janitor rose through the ranks at Frito-Lay and was the brains behind the wildly popular and spicy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos corn snack.

“People think it’s about the Flamin' Hot Cheeto but it’s about the life of Richard Montañez,” Longoria told the Australian television show "Today" in an interview. “He came up with this brilliant idea to put chili on chips for the Hispanic market and today Flamin’ Hot is the No. 1 snack in the world and it’s a multibillion-dollar industry that transcends snacks.”

The comedy-drama biopic distributed by Searchlight Pictures is based on Montañez’s first memoir, “A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive,” that details his humble beginnings from growing up in a migrant labor camp in Southern California and living in a one-bedroom apartment with his parents and 10 siblings to selling drugs on the streets of East Los Angeles, mopping the floors at Frito-Lay’s Rancho Cucamonga plant and building a career that spanned more than 40 years at PepsiCo.

Montañez is portrayed by Jesse Garcia, star of the 2006 indie “Quinceañera” and is joined by Annie Gonzales, who plays his high school sweetheart, Judy.

Longoria, best known for her role as Gabrielle Solis on the ABC drama “Desperate Housewives,” admitted she was ashamed of not knowing Montañez’s story until she read the script.

“I was like, ‘How do I not know this? He’s Mexican American like me. I love Flamin’ Hot.’ So it was like the flavor you knew but the story you didn’t, 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,’” she told Yahoo Entertainment.

While Montañez’s story has become an inspirational tale of Latino entrepreneurial success, Frito-Lay disputed the claims that he created the spicy line of Cheetos, calling his version of the story an “urban legend,” and stating that he “was not involved,” according to an investigation by The Los Angeles Times in 2021.

That same year, Montañez reaffirmed his story with his second memoir “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive.”

Jesse Garcia as Richard Montañez in the movie Flamin' Hot. (Courtesy Searchlight Pictures via YouTube)

The film’s producers were informed by Frito-Lay of these allegations in 2019 before production but moved forward with the project. Longoria’s film does include nods to the possibility of the Flamin’ Hot flavor being developed in the Midwest at the same time.

Frito-Lay credits Montañez with playing a “key role in accelerating the growth of our Flamin’ Hot Brand,” according to its website.

Longoria, who has been directing shorts and episodic TV for more than a decade — including episodes of “Jane the Virgin,” “Gordita Chronicles” and “Black-ish” — made headlines recently for her comments on the double standard for Latina directors. “A white male can direct a $200 million film, fail and get another one," Variety reported she said. "That’s the problem. I get one at-bat, one chance, work twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as cheap.”

Eva Longoria. (Corey Nickols / Getty Images for IMDb file)

She later referred to the pressure she felt to represent Latinos while directing "Flamin' Hot."

"If this movie doesn’t do well, if I don’t do a good job, people are going to say, ‘Oh, well, Latino stories don’t work. Oh, female directors aren’t good.’ And I felt the weight of all that every day and I carried that with me and it just fueled me to be my best,” she told the Australian "Today" show.

Longoria is hopeful that audiences, especially Latinos, will watch and support the film in the hopes that studios take more notice and create more films about them. "For this movie, it’s about us and for us and by us. And I hope our own community shows up and goes, ‘Yes, we wanna see more of those,’” she told Yahoo Entertainment.

"Flamin’ Hot" is available to stream on Hulu and Disney+ starting Friday.

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