Fox Searchlight has emerged victorious in a bidding war for a tasty new biopic, centering on the man who created the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Richard Montanez. The studio reportedly beat out multiple studio bidders for the project in what was described as a “highly-competitive sale.” While no director is attached at this time, Lewis Collick has been set to write the script, based on the pitch he developed with producer DeVon Franklin and Montanez.
Richard Montanez was born the son of an immigrant who grew up as a migrant farm worker in the grape fields of Southern California. He ended up getting a job as a janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in Rancho Cucamonga in 1976, after dropping out of high school. One day he watched a video from the Frito-Lay president that asked Montanez and all his fellow employees to, “act like an owner,” which he saw as an opportunity to do something different. One day, the assembly line broke down leaving a batch of Cheetos without the orange cheese dust, which gave Montanez the idea to cover the Cheetos with chile powder.
Montanez revealed in a 2016 interview that his recipe for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos was inspired by a popular Mexican street food known as elote. His family and friends love the hot Cheetos so much that they encouraged him to share his creation with his supervisors at the factory. After persuading the secretary to put his call through, Montanez got in touch with the president, who gave him two weeks to come up with a pitch. After getting a book on business strategies from the library, and buying his first ever tie, the pitch was a success. The Flamin’ Hot Cheetos line launched in 1992, and went on to become Frito-Lay’s best-selling product.
Today, Montanez works for PepsiCo, Frito-Lay’s parent company, as an executive in charge of Multicultural Sales and Community Promotions for North America, and is known as the Godfather of Multicultural Marketing, with his idea that sparked a billion-dollar brand. He also wrote and published the 2013 biography A Boy, A Burrito and A Cookie: From Janitor to Executive, although it isn’t clear if this project will be adapted for this biopic, or if it will take a different approach. DeVon Franklin will produce through his Franklin Entertainment company, with Anikah McLaren and Taylor Friedman overseeing the project for Fox Searchlight, with Samuel Rodriguez executive producing.
DeVon Franklin’s Franklin Entertainment company has a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox, and he is currently in pre-production on the Fox 2000 project The Impossible, which has This Is Us star Chrissy Metz attached to star. He has also produced Miracles From Heaven and The Star, while also serving as a studio executive at Sony, overseeing projects like Captain Phillips, Moneyball and Annie. Lewis Collick is best known for writing films such as Charlie St. Cloud, Ladder 49, Beyond the Sea, Domestic Disturbance, Judgment Night and many more.Variety broke the news on this flamin’ hot project earlier today.