Produced by Eva Longoria, this is the story of Richard Montanez, a former janitor at Frito-Lay who claims to have added chili powder to Cheetos and successfully pitched the idea to his executive bosses.
Per Variety, who broke the news about the film's initial development, "now commonly referred to as the Godfather of Multicultural Marketing, it was that initial idea that would spark a billion-dollar brand and catapult him from janitor to elite corporate executive."
Actors Jesse Garcia and Annie Gonzalez were cast in May 2021.
Then things got weird.
According to a new piece by the Los Angeles Times, Montanez did not invent the Flamin' Hot Cheeto at all. The actual inventor is a woman named Lynne Greenfield, though Montanez did start his career at Frito-Lay as a janitor and rise up the ranks.
\u201cRichard Monta\u00f1ez has made an entire second career out of his claim that he developed and pitched Flamin' Hot Cheetos while employed as a Frito-Lay factory worker. Eva Longoria is making a movie about him. He makes up to $50k per speaking engagement. It's a big deal.\u201d— Jeff Bercovici (@Jeff Bercovici) 1621173533
Apparently, the film's producers were aware of Frito-Lay's investigation and went forward with the script they have anyway.
A scandal like this could be enough to keep the film from being made and distributed.
However, sorry to both Frito-Lay and these producers, but the scandal itself might actually be a much better plot for a movie. In the event that Montanez has made all of this up and spent over 20 years capitalizing off of a false claim, now all of a sudden we have the Shattered Glass of after-school snacks on our hands. The Catch Me If You Can of cheese puffs. The Can You Ever Forgive Me of spicy treats.
On the other hand, if he really is the inventor of Flamin' Hot Cheetos, and Frito-Lay is the one making false claims and some kind of bizarre cover-up story, then this film just became the one Big Chips doesn't want you to see. Montanez is still an inspirational "rags to riches" figure worthy of a biopic; it's just a totally different kind of biopic now.
What do you think?