Just as Eva Longoria was about to start filming Flamin’ Hot, her biopic about the invention of the spicy Cheetos snack item, an equally spicy controversy erupted around whether her subject, Richard Montañez, invented the product after all.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that Jessie Garcia and Annie Gonzalez had been tapped to star in the Searchlight Pictures film, scheduled to begin shooting in New Mexico this summer. Garcia would be playing the role of Montañez, the impoverished son of Mexican migrants who was a janitor at Frito-Lay when he reputedly developed the recipe for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos before his rags-to-riches reincarnation as e a highly paid marketing executive and motivational speaker. Annie Gonzales was cast in the role of his wife.
It all sounded like a Chicano version of the 1960s classic How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
However, a story broke this week in the Los Angeles Times that might reduce Montañez’s claims to crumbs. The exposé claimed that the popular snack was actually created and promoted by another employee, a woman named Lynne Greenfeld. As Frito-Lay told the newspaper, “None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market. 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. That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Richard, but the facts do not support the urban legend.”
This, of course, contradicts the account by Montañez, whose memoir Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive is scheduled for publication next month. In announcing the casting at the beginning of May, Longorio was quoted as saying: “My biggest priority to make sure we are telling Richard Montañez’s story authentically. I am so happy to have two extremely talented and fellow Mexican Americans on board in these pivotal roles. Jesse and Annie have a deep understanding of our community and will be able to help tell this story of great importance for our culture.”
Montañez was quick to reply to the allegations, claiming his lowly position as a janitor was instrumental in the lack of documentation about his role in the project, telling Variety that “I was [Frito-Lay’s] greatest ambassador. But I will say this, you’re going to love your company more than they will ever love you, keep that in perspective.”
As of press time, Longorio had not commented on the dust-up and it’s unclear whether she will be including the controversy in her film or will be content to let the chips fall where they may.