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A Biopic Telling Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’s Disputed Origin Story Will Premiere at SXSW

Director Eva Longoria’s film tells the story of Richard Montañez, the self-proclaimed inventor of the Flamin’ Hot flavor that has captivated generations of snackers

A little child at a table eating a snack and three people standing in front of them watching.
Actors Brice Gonzalez, Annie Gonzalez, Jesse Garcia, and Hunter Jones in Flamin’ Hot.
Emily Aragones/Searchlight
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

The movie about how a Frito-Lay janitor supposedly invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is premiering at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March. The film was announced in 2018, and Eva Longoria was tapped to direct the film in 2019.

Flamin’ Hot, directed by Eva Longoria, is a biopic centered on Richard Montañez (played by Jesse Garcia), who claimed to have invented the snack product while working as a janitor at the Frito-Lay factory in Cucamonga, California, in the late 1970s and 1980s. He recounted on numerous occasions, including in a memoir, that he brought home cheeseless Cheetos and decided to add his own spice mixture to the naked snacks inspired by elotes. He shared those results with bigwigs at Frito, and viola, supposedly Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented. He was promoted to an executive position and had traveled giving motivational speeches and the like for corporations.

However, in 2021, the Los Angeles Times threw that origin story into question when the paper reported that the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were already in the works before Montañez claims to have pitched the idea. Montañez responded to the piece in Variety, saying that perhaps the snack product was in the works in a different regional division than his. Nevertheless, the film goes through Montañez’s Mexican American upbringing and his time at Frito-Lay.

The exact SXSW premiere date isn’t available yet. SXSW takes place from Friday, March 10 through Sunday, March 19.