‘Flamin’ Sizzling’ Cheetos Film Director Eva Longoria Talks at SXSW

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Texas-born Eva Longoria’s feature-length directorial debut, Flamin’ Sizzling, is about Richard Montañez and his journey from manufacturing facility janitor to the inventor of Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos within the late Seventies and Eighties. The film made its world premiere at South By Southwest (SXSW) on March 11 and can be obtainable on Hulu beginning on June 9. The biopic is a humorous and charming story that facilities on a Mexican American man, his household, and his tradition. It’ll possible be a success, however not with out some controversy.

In 2021, just some months earlier than filming was set to start, the Los Angeles Occasions revealed an investigative piece the place snack company Frito-Lay disputed Montañez’s claims that he was answerable for Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos. The corporate wrote in a press release to the newspaper that “none of our information present that Richard was concerned in any capability within the Flamin’ Sizzling check market,” however made clear that there was no love misplaced with Montañez. He had labored for the corporate for 4 many years, a few of which he spent because the vp of multicultural gross sales and group promotions for the general dad or mum firm PepsiCo. “That doesn’t imply we don’t have a good time Richard, however the information don’t help the city legend,” the assertion continued.

People in front of a yellow step and repeat.

The forged and crew of Flamin’ Sizzling on the SXSW premiere.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Pictures for Searchlight Footage

Earlier than the movie’s Austin premiere final weekend, Longoria participated in a Q&A session with Hollywood Reporter’s Mia Galuppo on the Austin Conference Middle. About midway by way of, Galuppo introduced up the report, asking how Longoria navigated the claims. “It’s fascinating as a result of it didn’t have an effect on our script in any respect,” she stated. “Our story’s all the time been about Richard Montañez. We’ve by no means got down to inform the historical past of the Cheeto. I don’t know when you guys would present up for that film. That is the historical past of Richard Montañez, which occurred to have a extremely large hand within the launch of this product.”

Longoria talked about how the script by no means referred to as Montañez a “meals chemist.” As an alternative, she stated that “his genius was saying, ‘No one’s listening to the Hispanic market. We put chile on chips.’ He did provide you with a recipe. He did provide you with a slurry [Editor’s note: a liquid-based mixture of ingredients] in his kitchen. And he and his spouse have so many great reminiscences of that.”

By means of the movie, Longoria defined that Frito-Lay doesn’t use Montañez’s actual recipe; as a substitute, the corporate barely alters it after meals scientists acquired concerned, including in maltodextrin (a substance that improves shelf life) with no matter different chemical compounds had been used to make a product viable for mass manufacturing. The story, she stated, is in regards to the origin story of a visionary and “why he’s referred to as the godfather of Hispanic advertising and marketing,” who tapped right into a group that wasn’t being paid consideration to, a group he knew properly as a result of he was part of it.

A little child at a table eating a snack and three people standing in front of them watching.

A nonetheless from Flamin’ Sizzling.
Emily Aragones/Searchlight

Nevertheless, the film is unquestionably in regards to the Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos. Possibly not the primary plot, which issues Montañez and his household and the way they’re attempting to make it in a racist nation — one thing the movie doesn’t draw back from depicting by means of montages of the Chicano motion and when a younger Montañez is arrested for being Brown with a handful of money.

However the movie is definitely about how Montañez himself dreamed up the spicy snack so fashionable it’s been banned in faculties. Based on the Los Angeles Occasions, Frito-Lay stated Montañez did play an integral half in a line of meals marketed particularly to the Latinx group — Sabrositas, which included Flamin’ Sizzling Popcorn, and two Fritos flavors, Flamin’ Sizzling and Lime and Chile Corn Chips. These merchandise hit the market in 1994, 4 years after Lynne Greenfeld, the one who is credited by Frito-Lay for creating the Flamin’ Sizzling title and model, led the launch of Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos. The Los Angeles Occasions report signifies that the story Montañez tells about creating Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos was truly about his work on Sabrositas. The newspaper additionally referenced an outdated U.S. Information and World Report article revealed in December 1993 that credited the then 37-year-old machine operator for bursting “forth with a kernel of an concept: Flamin’ Sizzling Popcorn, which can quickly make its debut.”

With talking engagements, memoirs, and now a function movie, Montañez has made a profitable dwelling out of the declare he invented what many would name the best chip of all time. The veracity of stated claims is nebulous at finest. Nevertheless, virtually everybody (in addition to Greenfeld, for instance) stands to achieve extra by performing like Montañez is Flamin’ Sizzling Cheetos’s mastermind. Longoria and the forged and crew answerable for Flamin’ Sizzling get their feel-good film of the summer season. Frito-Lay will get to affiliate with a rags-to-riches story that can undoubtedly elevate its inventory costs come June and bolster model loyalty. Audiences get to see themselves on display in a means they’ve hardly ever seen earlier than, by way of an correct depiction of the tradition, and Montañez, whether or not he developed the precise Sizzling Cheeto or not, is an instance of success in a system designed for him to fail.

A woman dressed in black sitting and talking into a microphone.

Eva Longoria at her speaker session at SXSW.
Hutton Supancic/Getty Pictures for SXSW

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