Eva Longoria has landed the irresistible role of director for the upcoming biopic, Flamin’ Hot, a film that shares the name of the junk food phenomenon: the spicy cousin of Cheetos. Flamin’ Hot is a quintessential American rags-to-riches story, but with immigrant flavor, no pun intended.
“What would happen if I put chile on a Cheeto?” wondered Richard Montañez, who was working as a janitor at a Frito-Lay warehouse. Montañez had taken home faulty, undressed Cheetos — there was a malfunction in the cheese-dusting phase of manufacturing — and opted to spice up what would otherwise have been a plain corn chip. Little did he know that he would become an inventor, working his way up the ladder at the company to become a marketing executive.
Montañez can thank his naïveté for his big break — he didn’t know you weren’t supposed to just call up the CEO of a company to pitch an idea — but he has his immigrant upbringing to thank for the ambition and optimism that got him there in the first place. He told the Washington Post about the advice that his father, a Mexican immigrant, had given him during his janitorial years. “’When you mop that floor, don’t forget that you are a Montañez. Let that floor shine. Work hard. Make people proud to know you.’”
The news of Longoria’s latest directorial assignment comes just days after the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released their report on Latinos in film, a sobering account of how poorly the Latinx community is represented in Hollywood — if they even have any presence at all. Out of 1,300 films produced between 2007 and 2018, only one had credited a Latina director.
One conclusion that came from the report is that Latino power in the industry can grow from the top, by expanding organizations like the National Association of Latino Independent Producers; that’s because having Latino gatekeepers increases the likelihood that Latino filmmakers will be hired as directors. This very well may have been the case for the Flamin’ Hot biopic, as the film’s executive producer is Samuel Rodriguez, who is an evangelical pastor of Puerto Rican descent. The studio heads at Fox Searchlight supposedly were impressed by Longoria’s authentic take on Montañez’s story, choosing her over a handful of other directors also in the running.
Longoria has been accumulating credits as a director over the past five years, working exclusively on television productions that include Devious Maids, Jane the Virgin, Black-ish, and Grand Hotel. Her directorial debut in film will be for the comedy 24/7, in which she’ll star alongside Kerry Washington.