12-year-old Ethan Bortnick has accomplished a lot in his young career. When he was six years old, he broke the Guinness Book of World Records by being the youngest performer to headline a solo tour – beating the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. He has also made appearances of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”; “The Oprah Winfrey Show”; and several national newscasts all over the world. Now, he’s making his feature film debut in “Anything is Possible,” which releases to DVD on Sept. 24. He also serves as co-composer for the film’s music.
In “Anything is Possible,” Bortnick plays 10-year-old Nathan, whose mother goes missing during a rescue mission in Japan after the 2011 tsunami. When it’s discovered that George (Jonathan Bennett) is not his real father, Child Care Services comes to take him away. Nathan runs away from home and travels the streets of Detroit – meeting all different kinds of people. He also discovers a talent he never knew he had, and that is being a skilled piano player.
The Chico Movie Examiner recently conducted an over-the-phone interview with Bortnick about the film, how he got into playing the piano, and what it’s like to share the stage with talents like Beyonce, Natalie Cole, and Smokey Robinson. Check out the full interview below.
David Wangberg: As I was watching the film, I saw that your character picked up the talent naturally. Is that how it worked for you when you started playing the piano?
Ethan Bortnick: Well, yeah, when I was just starting, I really wanted piano lessons, but my parents didn’t let me. And then all of a sudden, I had a little toy keyboard I got for my second birthday. Everything I heard in a movie – all the music I heard – I would start copying on my little toy keyboard, and then my parents walked in and said, “We’re getting you piano lessons.”
DW: How much of this is actually based on your life and everything that lead you into becoming a piano player?
EB: A lot of it is actually based off my real life. In the movie, my character’s name is Nathan, and my brother’s name is Nathan. And I also had heart surgery when I was little, and my brother also had heart surgery. And, of course, there’s the piano part that plays into the movie, and I play piano, too. A really big part of the movie is when they go to a children’s hospital, and we wrote that in the script because that’s the charity that helped my little brother. And we decided that, when you go to buy the movie, part of that money goes to the Children’s Miracle Network.
DW: Now, all the kids at the end of the movie – the ones at the orphanage – did you know them ahead of time?
EB: No, I didn’t know them, except for my little brother. He’s part of the film, too.
DW: I know this is your first feature film, but is this your first time acting?
EB: I had never really done any acting before, so this is really my first time. But it was really fun, and it was really cool.
DW: Did you get a lot of tips from Jonathan [Bennett] and Lacey [Chabert] as the production was going along?
EB: Yeah, they showed me a few tips on how to really get into the role, and that was very helpful.
DW: So, do you plan on acting in another film, or are you just going to go back to playing the piano?
EB: I would love to act in another film. It was so much fun; I really enjoyed it.
DW: Yeah, I thought you did really well. I was surprised, because – to be honest with you – I had never heard of you until they sent me the press release for this. And I was looking through it, and, I’ll be honest, you have a much better resume than I did at your age and than I do now. [laughs]
EB: Thank you.
DW: Yeah, it’s really amazing that you’ve broken a Guinness Record and all of this other stuff. And I see that you’ve been onstage with a couple of big name performers like Beyonce and a few others. How was it like to work with them?
EB: It was really cool, because they’re all very nice and talented. But, you know, I really think of them as regular people, because everybody in this world is special, and everybody is the same. I mean, it’s not like they’re different; they’re just very talented. And they put on their pants the same way we do, you know – one leg at a time. They’re just very talented people, and it was very nice to meet them, but they’re all like us.
DW: Yeah, that’s very true. So, going back to your acting career, if you wanted to do another film, would you like to do an action, comedy, drama, or something else?
EB: I wouldn’t mind, as long as it’s not horror, because I don’t like horror films. [laughs]
DW: I saw that you broke the Guinness Book of World Records for… remind me again. I’m sorry.
EB: Yeah, it’s a little hard. I think, if I’m not wrong, it’s the youngest musician to headline a solo tour.
DW: How did it feel when you received your award?
EB: It was really cool that I got to achieve it, but that shouldn’t stop me from continuing to help people and continue to perform.
DW: Absolutely. Do you play any other instruments besides the piano?
EB: No, not really. I tried the guitar, I tried the drums, but I’m not that great.
DW: I tried the guitar myself, but I just can’t do it. Both of my brothers – one’s a drummer, and the other’s a bassist. I tried, but I can’t do it. [laughs]
So, what’s your current project at the moment?
EB: I just filmed my new public television special [“The Power of Music”], and I have a tour coming up. Besides that, I guess, getting ready for the release of the film.
DW: Is this your first public television special, or have you done one before?
EB: I’ve done one before, but it was when I was a little bit younger.
DW: Are you going to be doing a tour promo for the film?
EB: Sadly, no. I’m going to be in school for a long time, because I don’t have a lot of things this month except the movie. I finally have a full week of school, and the rest of the months, I don’t have any school, because I’m traveling.
DW: So does your school work around your schedule? How do you do this and school at the same time?
EB: I go to regular school, and when I’m on the road, they give me the homework on the road. Whenever I’m not traveling, I’ll go to school. When I am traveling, I’ll Skype with them and email them.
This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Ethan Bortnick for talking about his career and “Anything is Possible.”