Screenwriter defends Flamin’ Hot Cheetos origin story disputed by Frito-Lay

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

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File this one under strange story of the day but a new biopic is being developed about the creation of Flamin' Hot Cheetos but Frito-Lay is now claiming that the origin story isn't exactly what it seems and now the validity of the story and the screenplay has come into question.

Eva Longoria's Flamin Hot is about the inventor that most believed to be the man behind the creation of the beloved spicy Cheetos. It really is an inspiring, rags-to-riches story that is honestly a solid basis for a film because it simply sounds too good to be true. Back in 1992, a former Frito-Lay janitor named Richard Montañez made his way from being a janitor in a Frito-Lay plant located in Rancho Cucamonga, California, to an executive by pitching his idea for Flamin' Hot Cheetos. This is the story the film is running with but, in the following statement, via a story in "The Los Angeles Times", Frito-Lay is denying that Montañez had any part in the development of the chips:

"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 in the test market."

According to Frito-Lay, the true inventors of Flamin' Hot Cheetos happen to be more than one person. One of them is Fred Lindsay, a Chicago salesman that had noticed the increase in spacy snack sales. He wanted Frito-Lay to get involved with the rising trend and he was joined by a product manager named Sharon Owens, who took up the development of the popular snack. Lastly, there's Lynne Greenfield, who came up with the name, flavor, and packaging ideas. Frito-Lay claims that Flamin' Hot Cheetos had hit the test market back in 1990, two years before Montañez made his pitch to the company.

All of this has not stopped screenwriter Lewis Clark from defending his screenplay and standing up against claims that the origin story that is the subject of the film is fake. Here is what Clark had to say:

"I think enough of the story is true. The heart and soul and spirit of the story is true. He is a guy who should remain the face of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. The more you talk to Richard, the more you realize this is an extraordinary guy who went through a lot. He's not just a janitor who had a brainstorm."

Clark goes on to call the claims about the validity of the origin story "a hit job on a really fine upstanding individual who's an inspiration to the Latino community for justifiable reasons. Did Richard embellish a little bit? Was his memory faulty here or there? Who knows? The truth is in the product." What is clear is that the origin story was designed to mean more as a film for director Eva Longoria. The actress turned director has said "my biggest priority is 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 (Jessie Garcia and Annie Gonzalez). Jessie and Annie have a deep understanding of our community and will be able to help tell this story of great importance to our culture."

Now the waters are muddied.  Who is telling the truth? What should've been an inspirational story of a man with a dream is now in question because the company that is behind the chips denies it. It's hard to tell what will happen next but I'm starting to think that the film about whether or not this origin story is true might make an even more interesting film than the one currently in development.

Do YOU believe Richard Montañez's origin story for Flamin' Hot Cheetos? Should the film continue now that the authenticity of the story is in question?

Source: Los Angeles Times

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