Eva Longoria is not only a successful actor and producer, but also a trailblazing director who is making her feature debut with Flamin’ Hot, a biopic about Richard Montañez, a Frito-Lay janitor who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Longoria spoke candidly about the challenges and pressures she faced as a female director of color during her Kering Women in Motion talk at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. She was joined by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which provides research on diversity and inclusion in entertainment.
“We don’t get a lot of bites at the apple. My movie wasn’t low budget by any means — it wasn’t $100 million, but it wasn’t $2 million. When was the last Latina-directed studio film? It was like 20 years ago. We can’t get a movie every 20 years,” Longoria said.
She added that she felt the weight of her community and every female director when she started production on Flamin’ Hot. She also pointed out the unfair double standards that exist in Hollywood for men and women directors.
“The problem is if this movie fails, people go, ‘Oh Latino stories don’t work…female directors really don’t cut it.’ We don’t get a lot of at-bats. A white male can direct a $200 million film, fail and get another one. That’s the problem. I get one at-bat, one chance, work twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as cheap,” she said.
Longoria said that she was fueled by her determination and passion to tell stories about her community. She also highlighted the buying power and over-indexing of Latino audiences at the box office, and urged Hollywood to create more content for them.
“Your film will not succeed if you don’t have the Latino audience. Do you know how many Latinos showed up for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’? Do you know how many Latinos bought a ticket for ‘Fast and the Furious’? We over-index at moviegoing, so why shouldn’t there be content for us if we are the ticket buyers? If we are the viewers?” she said.
Longoria also lamented the lack of representation and progress for Latinos in front of and behind the camera.
“We’re still underrepresented in front of the camera, we’re still underrepresented behind the camera, we’re still not tapping into the females of the Latino community,” she said. “We were at 7% in TV and film, now we’re at 5%, so the myth that Hollywood is so progressive is a myth when you look at the data …The illusion is that Hollywood is progressive. The reality is that we’re still far behind in equal representation.”
Longoria hopes that her film will inspire other Latina directors and storytellers to pursue their dreams and break barriers in Hollywood.