Richard Montañez, the real-life subject of Eva Longoria’s biopic “Flamin’ Hot,” said at the film’s SXSW premiere that he cried watching his life story on screen and said it revealed just why he endured so much hardship.
“I was just crying. Everybody really needs a Judy [his wife] in their lives,” he said at the film’s premiere Saturday from the Paramount Theater. “We thought it was wonderful, and we just hope young people will see this film and inspire hope. But the one thing I got out of it that is incredible for me, this is just for me personally, there’s been a lot of pain in our lives, but this movie showed me the purpose for all the pain.”
Montañez attended the screening along with his wife Judy, whom is also depicted in the film, though Longoria acknowledged that the real Judy “hates the spotlight.”
Longoria’s film tells the story of how Montañez invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos while working for Frito-Lay in the ‘80s, though as IndieWire’s review points out, a 2021 LA Times expose revealed that Montañez did not invent the product, despite claiming so for years in inspirational speaking appearances and in his book that served as the basis for the film. Montañez did however rise in the ranks at Frito-Lay as one of the only Latino marketing executives and overcame working in a migrant labor camp as a child.
Longoria, who made her narrative feature debut on “Flamin’ Hot,” did not address the LA Times article or allegations of falsehoods. She stressed that the film strove for accuracy to everything in Montañez’s book, and that there are many aspects of his life that did not fit into the film.
“This is Richard’s story and history. We didn’t want to do the history of the Cheeto, we wanted to do Richard’s story,” Longoria said. “It was easy to honor that. So many other things happened in his life that couldn’t fit into the movie, what about that, what about this, there are so many amazing miracles and obstacles.”
The audience in the Paramount Theater gobbled up the film like a bag of chips, with the film eliciting some big laughs and applause breaks as Montañez (Jesse Garcia) gives a third-act speech inspiring his factory staff to put their own heart, names, and heritage into each bag they produce.
As a result, one audience member asked the real Montanez what happened to the secretary who passed his impromptu phone call along to then-Frito-Lay CEO Roger Enrico (Tony Shaloub). Montañez said that the woman, Patty, is not only real but is “still my friend today,” adding that “women are such a powerful force” and that he would not be where he was today if she, as Montañez claims, did not pass along his call to the CEO.
Also in attendance at the premiere were writer Linda Yvette Chávez, stars Garcia, Annie Gonzelez, and Matt Walsh, and producer Devon Franklin.
Searchlight Pictures will release “Flamin’ Hot” on Hulu on June 9.
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