Releasing June 9 from Fox Searchlight, “Flamin’ Hot” is the true story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), a janitor for Frito Lay who turns the company around with his Hispanic-American remix of the company’s popular snack brands. Directed by Eva Longoria and produced by DeVon Franklin (“Miracles from Heaven,” “Breakthrough”), it also stars Annie Gonzalez, Emilio Rivera, Dennis Haysbert, and Tony Shalhoub.
Franklin first heard Montañez’s story seven years ago and was determined to bring it to the big screen someday.
“I just was so motivated and inspired,” he said. “I said, ‘I gotta tell this movie, I got to do it.’ I didn’t know how I was going to do it. At the time. I wasn’t even truthfully sure that I could do it. But I still gave him my word. ‘I’m gonna’ get this done.’”
Soon, Franklin was contacted by Eva Longoria’s agent. The “Desperate Housewives” actress had never directed before, but she had read the script and wanted it to be her debut project. He admits that he was reluctant at first, because of her lack of experience behind the camera.
“Once I met her, and I heard what she wanted to do to the movie, I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter that she’d never done a film, she is our director’,” he said. “I’ve been working with her ever since, and it’s truly been a joy. She’s a phenomenal director, brilliant, brilliant filmmaker, and the movie is in the shape it is because of that.”
The finished film has screened at film festivals and preview audiences to “incredible feedback,” Franklin says.
“It was the opening night for the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and the response was unbelievable,” he said. “We screened the movie in front of about 1,000 people to see how the Latino community embraces it.”
Audiences and critical acclaim is one thing, but how does the real-life subject and his family feel about how the finished product tells the story?
“They love it,” he said. “They’re so proud of it. They’re so grateful for it. How many people in the history of the world ever get a movie made about their life? Very few. And those that do, most of them have have passed on. But in this situation, Richard is alive and well. So, he and Judy feel grateful.”
In the film, Richard’s relationship with his father Nacho (Rivera) is strained, complicated by different views of religion. Nacho has a louder, more harsh view of God’s expectations while Richard’s faith is quieter and personal. It’s a slight departure from the more straight-ahead faith releases Franklin is known for, but one he says is authentic to Montañez’s journey.
“We wanted to portray it that way because that’s what Richard actually experienced,” he said. “When it comes to faith, being able to portray the journey to faith was important.”
After years of development and production, as Franklin started seeing the movie in the editing process, he was blown away. He knew he had “something special.” The final project, he says, has “far exceeded his expectations” which he believes will continue to grow in popularity.
“It was very gratifying to be a part of this, because it’s bigger than just a movie,” he said. “It’s almost like a movement.”
“Flamin’ Hot,” directed by Eva Longoria and produced by DeVon Franklin, will release June 9 on Hulu and Disney+.