Sir Elton John is the star of the 2018 John Lewis Christmas campaign in an advert telling the tear-jerking story of his rise to fame and fortune from humble beginnings.
The mini-biopic, set to his 1970 hit Your Song, shows how one present can change a life and ends with a four-year-old Elton unwrapping his first piano on Christmas Day in 1951.
The £7million advert then cuts to the emotional 71-year-old playing the same instrument while thinking about his mother Sheila, who died last year aged 92, followed by the slogan: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’.
The advert, released online this morning, has divided opinion with stars including James Corden, Richard Bacon and Susanna Reid declaring they ‘absolutely love it’ while others have branded it a ‘plug’ for Sir Elton’s upcoming biopic movie and farewell tour.
Some fans were disappointed that cuddly stars such as Montie the penguin and Moz the monster have been jettisoned for a celebrity-endorsed campaign.
An emotional Sir Elton John is the star of the 2018 John Lewis Christmas advert, which tells the uplifting and poignant story of his rise to superstardom sparked with the gift of music
Sir Elton appears as himself in the commercial but is also played by five actors including four-year-old Freddie Henderson, who runs down the stairs on Christmas Day for its moving finale
Elton, then Reg Dwight from Pinner, tears the paper away to reveal a beautiful piano that would inspire him to play
The finale ends with Sir Elton playing the same piano and ends with the message: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’
James Corden is among the stars to have said how good the advert is and declared ‘holy s**t’ when he shared in online today
Richard Bacon and Susanna Reid also reacted positively to the £7million advert that will be shown on ITV1 tonight
But some critics using the hashtag #Eltonjohnlewis pointed out that the advert has come out as he launches his farewell tour and his biopic movie is out next year
Five actors aged between four and 50 were used to play Sir Elton, using prosthetics, CGI and help from the star and his husband David Furnish to ensure they had the same mannerisms and piano playing style.
John Lewis starts selling £872 piano after launching Elton John Christmas ad… but ‘Lidl bit funny’ supermarket offers £89.99 keyboard instead
They’ve won praise once again for their annual Christmas advert which cost £7million.
But John Lewis have been victim of a hilarious takedown by budget supermarket Lidl over the price of its showpiece piano.
John Lewis advertised the piano used in its Christmas advert for £872
The Yamaha Arius YDP-143 Digital Piano is on sale for £872 after featuring prominently in the commercial, which shows Elton John at the keys from his childhood to superstardom.
It is described as being ‘ideal for any aspiring pianist’ and providing the experience of an ‘authentic acoustic piano’.
But Lidl was quick to balk at the price of the instrument and offer an alternative option on social media.
Lidl then tweeted a tongue-in-cheek advert for an £89 Yamaha keyboard
The German supermarket tweeted: ‘Just because you don’t have £872 to spend on a piano, doesn’t mean you can’t be the next Elton’, alongside a picture of an £89.99 Yamaha keyboard.
The picture is also captioned ‘It’s a Lidl bit funny…’
Twitter users were quick to praise the witty response, calling it a ‘masterstroke’ while one user said ‘give your marketing manager a rise’.
Viewers are taken back through key moments in his life with scenes of the star on stadium tours, travelling on a private jet, recording Your Song, playing the piano in a local pub and performing in a school recital.
It ends with Sir Elton – then little Reg Dwight – running down the stairs on Christmas morning to see his grandmother Ivy and his mother, who brought him up together because his father, Stanley, was largely absent.
John Lewis has said the advert is ‘inspired by real events’ but admits the finale involves ‘some creativity’ because the singer was never gifted a piano at Christmas, but he had learned to play at his grandmother’s house – and denied claims they paid him £5million to take part.
Shoppers might be disappointed to learn that there will be no plush toys available in Sir Elton’s likeness this year, with the retailer instead selling four pianos – two uprights for around £800 and two keyboards starting at £150 – and a range of vintage tour t-shirts.
It is also the second of the retailer’s Christmas ads to feature Your Song after singer Ellie Goulding recorded a cover for the 2010 campaign.
The advert’s nod to Elton’s mother and the influence on his career comes almost a year after her death last December.
Two years before she passed away the star found the courage to apologise to her after an eight-year feud that culminated in her inviting an Elton John impersonator to perform at her birthday party because she missed him so much.
Elton severed all contact with her after a catastrophic argument where she blamed Elton’s husband, David Furnish, for turning him against her.
She was also upset the Candle In The Wind singer demanded she cut all ties with her longtime friends Bob Halley and John Reid, who had both been fired from his entourage after decades working for him.
But on her 90th birthday he sent Sheila a large bouquet of white orchids for her milestone birthday and also shelled out £30,000 for Sheila to undergo a double hip replacement.
When she died two years later he spoke of his grief – but happiness that they had become close again.
In September rumours emerged that Sir Elton had agreed to take part – but John Lewis has denied he was paid the £5million fee being mooted. They also said some of his fee was donated to charity.
The musician said today: ‘The John Lewis Christmas campaign has so many warm memories for me and my family.
‘It’s been a lovely opportunity for me to reflect on my life in music and the incredible journey I have been on, and how first playing my grandmother’s piano marks the moment when music came into my life.
‘The ad is absolutely fantastic and I’ve truly loved every minute of being a part of it.’
His husband David Furnish, who was involved in producing the advert, said: ‘I think Elton has enjoyed the process of making this tremendously.
‘I think, you know, emotionally he is thinking about the journey he’s been on as an artist, and that moment, you know, when music came into his life at a very young age when he was encouraged by his mother and his grandmother with his piano’.
Sir Elton sings his first big hit Your Song in a present day gig but the advert goes all the way back to his 1950s childhood
Actor Oliver Marshall wearing prosthetics and original clothes is shown performing on his stadium tour on the West Coast with the crowds recreated using CGI
Viewers are also transported into his tour plane in the 1970s when he became a global superstar and multi-millionaire
The Boy & The Piano was released online at 8am this morning before being shown on ITV at 9.15pm tonight.
Which other adverts has Elton John appeared in?
The John Lewis spot isn’t the first time the singer’s profile has been used to plug products.
Not only has he appeared in other TV adverts, but his music has been used in them on numerous occasions.
In 1984, the Rocket Man writer appeared in adverts for Sasson Jeans. He even approached them for the ad, winning sponsorship for that year’s American tour.
The following year he was helping Cadbury Chocolates flog their snacks by starring in an ad.
He recorded a cover of French singer Edith Piaff’s classic ‘La Vie En Rose’ for a commercial promoting luxury goods firm Cartier in 1994.
His 1977 hit Are You Ready for Love was used for a Sky Sports advert ahead of the 2003-2004 football season.
Last year, Samsung Gear VR used the song Rocket Man in its Ostrich commercial.
Actor Simon Burbage plays Elton in the 1980s and 1990, while the lookalike used to recreate the scenes from the 1970s is Oliver Marshall.
The singer as a teenager is played by Brandon Stein, while Hundson Trindall is performing at a piano recital and the young boy on Christmas morning is Freddie Henderson.
The advert’s release coincides with the start of ticket sales Sir Elton worldwide farewell tour and next year Taron Egerton will play him in Rocketman, the biopic film being made about the star, with his blessing, due for release next year.
John Lewis says the movie and tour is unrelated to their choice of star and advert, which was filmed over the summer.
It begins with Sir Elton, 71, gently tapping out the opening notes to Your Song before viewers are taken back through his life with scenes of him on stadium tours, travelling on a private jet, performing on Top of the Pops and recording the track – his first major hit – in 1970.
Two adult actors, Oliver Marshall and Simon Burbage were chosen because they are the same height and build as Sir Elton.
They were then transformed using prosthetics, his flamboyant outfits, glasses and even a mohican haircut.
The advert, which was produced with the help of his husband David Furnish, then moves to a young Elton playing the piano in a local pub and performing in a school recital.
And in a moving finale four-year-old Elton, played by young actor Freddie Henderson, is shown running downstairs to see his mother and grandmother where he unwraps a piano as a Christmas gift.
It then cuts back to Sir Elton, who lost his mother Sheila at the age of 92 last December, looking tearful as he plays the same instrument.
Sir Elton, again using an actor, is shown performing Your Song on TV and then recording it for an album in 1970
In the 1960s the star first started performing in the Northwood Hills pub in Pinner, around the corner from where he grew up
Elton, played by Hudson Trindall, is shown performing in a school recital watched by his family in an advert inspired by events in his life (pictured, right, Elton as a child)
The heart of the advert is revealed at the end as Elton as a young boy tears the paper from the piano in front of his grandmother and mother, played by Deborah Baxter and Katie Bonna (left to right)
The child actor looks in wonder at the musical instrument with the message that gifts can inspire and change lives
The final scene shows Elton playing the same piano himself, although John Lewis admit while he learned to play with his grandmother he never received one as a Christmas gift
John Lewis addressed speculation about the cost of this year’s ad, describing reports that it had paid Sir Elton £5million as ‘wildly inaccurate’ and said the ad cost £7million with most of the money going on advertising spending.
Sir Elton said his mother Sheila (pictured together at his 50th birthday party in 1997) was an inspiration to him – but they had an eight-year feud before having a reconciliation two years before she died last December
It added that Sir Elton had requested that a portion of his fee be donated to the Elton John Charitable Trust when he was first approached to be involved.
John Lewis customer director Craig Inglis said: ‘The ad tells the story of why Elton’s piano was more than just a gift and we hope to remind customers of that special moment when they’ve given a gift at Christmas time that they know will be treasured forever.’
The retailer, which reported a 98.8 per cent profits crash for the first half of the year in September, said the ad was a ‘crucial part’ of its overall marketing campaign and ‘one of the most effective marketing campaigns in the industry, delivering an excellent return on investment’.
John Lewis and Waitrose employees have been given the first opportunity to share the two minute and 20 second ad at 6am on Thursday before its launch on the store’s social media channels, its website and in shops at 8am.
The ad first airs on television on Thursday at 9.15pm during ITV’s Dark Heart, although ITV viewers may have noticed that the theme tunes to some of the channel’s shows including Coronation Street and This Morning were played solely in piano notes on Wednesday to tease the advert’s premiere.
Customers at the retailer’s flagship Oxford Street branch can also step into a 2,000 square foot recreation of the ad production set to try on some of the costumes, listen to recordings from Elton John’s 17-11-70 album and have photos taken at the piano.
The advert has been met with mixed reviews on social media with some viewers labelling it ‘beautiful and powerful’ and others asking if it is merely a promotional ad for the singer’s upcoming tour
John Lewis has moved away from cuddly toys this year and fans of the advert can enter a reproduction of Sir Elton’s lounge now built in its Oxford Street store
The music studio where Your Song was recorded has also been lovingly rebuilt in the Oxford Street where shoppers can touch the mixing desk and play the grand piano
As part of the experience Elton’s 1970s dressing room is open to the public where they can try wigs, glasses and his clothes
‘#fabulousfreddie!’ Boy, 4, from Corrie actress Tina O’Brien’s drama school is revealed as child star of John Lewis advert as his proud mother shares Elton John’s Instagram post about her son
The mother of the child star of this year’s John Lewis advert has spoken of her pride today after the long-awaited commercial was finally unveiled, calling her son #fabulousfreddie!
Emma Henderson shared a picture of son Freddie, four, from the advert on Facebook, originally posted by Sir Elton John, with the department store’s 2018 festive campaign based on his life.
The mini-biopic, which cost £7million and is set to his 1970 hit Your Song, shows the Rocketman singer’s career in reverse, featuring several actors in make-up and prosthetic playing him through the ages.
Posting a picture of the youngster on Instagram, Sir Elton wrote: ‘What a pleasure it was to be part of the wonderful @johnlewisandpartnersChristmas advert.’
Ms Henderson then shared it with the caption: ‘When @eltonjohn posts a pic of your child’s face! #fabulousfreddie @freddiesteddiego.’
Freddie Henderson, four, has won rave reviews for his performance as young Elton John in the John Lewis Christmas advert and the musician posted a picture of the youngster on social media this morning which proud mother Emma Henderson shared on Facebook today, pictured
Ms Henderson, pictured with Freddie, captioned Sir Elton’s post with #fabulousfreddie and said: ‘When @eltonjohn posts a pic of your child’s face!’
Freddie’s drama school the Drama MOB in Manchester also paid tribute to the youngster on social media today and said staff were ‘unbelievably proud’
The school was co-founded by Coronation Street actress Tina O’Brien who described Freddie’s moment as ‘the proudest day ever’
Drama school pupil Freddie was picked out from more than 1,000 hopefuls after auditioning for the advert, called The Boy and The Piano, earlier this year. It is his second job after previously featuring in adverts for electronics firm Bosch.
He told the Mirror he was unfazed by the huge production and just got on with his role.
Freddie said: ‘I was, just you know, running down the stairs, into the lounge, standing there until they said – cut!’
The news was welcomed by family and friends who congratulated the family on social media.
Kate Parker said: ‘His face is all over my Twitter feed. You must be bouncing off the walls xx’
Lesley Koninckx added: ‘Incredible, beautiful and amazing but that’s just Freddie.’
Sir Elton was also played as a child aged 11 by Hudson Trindall, in a scene where he plays the piano at a school recital.
Hudson told the Mirror: ‘I play a very famous musician who is eleven at the time of what I am filming. The hardest thing was just getting everything right.’
Meanwhile the singer was played in his teenage years playing tunes for friends at a party by Brandon Stein.
Freddie is a member of Coronation Street actress Tina O’Brien’s The Drama MOB, based in Manchester and competed with others across the country to land the part.
Paying tribute to Freddie, the school said in a statement: ‘A HUGE congratulations to our very own Freddie Henderson who stars in this years John Lewis advert.
‘Freddie was up against thousands of other boys across the country for this role and we are unbelievably proud that our small, Manchester drama school and agency have been able to provide Freddie with the experience to star in the advert of the year!
‘Freddie joined our classes in Oct 2017 and we are thrilled for Freddie and his family.’
Esther Morgan, director of the school, told MailOnline Freddie made an instant impact upon joining age three last year.
She said: ‘He is a very bright boy, chatty, confident and very talented at drama.
‘When we take pupils we look for confidence and an ability to follow direction and instruction and Freddie had that.
‘This job came up and and luckily he was successful. We are very, very proud. He beat more than 1,000 other boys and it is great for our small school because a lot of the big London agencies often get these roles.
‘You don’t get a bigger advert than the John Lewis Christmas ad so this could be a stepping stone to big things for Freddie’.
Ms Morgan added she expected the other pupils to be very excited about the advert but said Freddie had not been affected much by the exposure.
She added: ‘At his age, we try to teach them some improvisation, script work and try to get their imaginations going.
‘We have a lot of talented children but since Freddie arrived we all said how confident, bubbly he was and how much of a spark he had.’
The school also confirmed Freddie would be watching tonight’s first airing of the advert on ITV1 at 9.15pm with his family and it would be filming the moment to share with the public.
Meanwhile O’Brien, who plays Sarah in Coronation Street, added: ‘I’m so proud I could pop.’
‘It’s just one big plug for Elton!’ John Lewis divides fans with ‘not very Christmassy’ festive advert as retailer is accused of ‘selling out’ by promoting singer’s farewell tour and Rocketman film biopic
Fans of the John Lewis Christmas advert are split today over the decision to have millionaire Sir Elton John at its heart.
Critics have called the retailer’s 2018 campaign a ‘sell out’ and a ‘plug’ for the star’s farewell tour and his Rocketman biopic starring Taron Egerton, which is due for release next year.
But others including stars James Corden and Susanna Reid have praised it with some fans claiming it is the retailer’s ‘best ever’ Christmas commercial.
Many said its message that one present can change a life reduced them to tears.
Some fans loved it – and saw it as a happy distraction from the Brexit chaos consuming the UK – with many crying through it
The £7million advert tells the tear-jerking story of his rise to fame and fortune from humble beginnings in Pinner, north London, where he was brought up by his mother Sheila and grandmother Rita.
It ends with a four-year-old Elton – then Reg Dwight – unwrapping his first piano on Christmas Day in 1951 then cuts back to the present say showing the emotional 71-year-old playing the same instrument in front of the tree.
It is followed by the slogan: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’ and the retailer has today started marketing pianos for £800 – the first time it has sold them for decades.
Twitter went wild when it was released this morning – but it has split opinion.
@mollytomkinss said: ‘I feel truly sorry for anyone who can’t understand the deeper meaning of the #JohnLewisChristmasAd this year. One creative gift can shape a child’s entire future.
@Jordan_Lines tweeted: ‘Is it just me disappointed with #JohnLewisChristmasAd nothing xmasy at all.. that could of been about his bloody birthday’.
@robbie_smart wrote: ‘So the #JohnLewisChristmasAd this Year is just a trailer for the new Elton John film right?’
@lwg832013 said: ‘Having just watched the Christmas advert I think this is the most powerful yet!! #JohnLewisChristmasAd
Others said the advert was more about Sir Elton John than about Christmas
@Aeris84 said on social media: ‘Just seen the #JohnLewisChristmasAd and, even if this year it was a bit different, I still ended up shedding a few tears’.
Harriet Wileman tweeted: ‘I’m never one to get emotional over Christmas ads but ooooh dear this one was a punch to the gut I was not expecting �� #JohnLewisChristmasAd #EltonJohnLewis
@Nimkins said: ‘Just saw the #JohnLewisChristmasAd and I’m crying. Best ad since the penguins’.
Remember these? Moz the monster, Bouncing Buster, the Man on the Moon, Montie the penguin and a lovestruck snowman – EVERY John Lewis ad from the past ten years
John Lewis’ 2017 Christmas advert has left viewers in tears over a mischievous and flatulent monster called Moz and his relationship with a seven-year-old soulmate – with fans comparing it to Disney’s much-loved Monsters Inc.
The giant furry monster with a bulbous nose, wonky teeth and a love of snoring, jumps out from under the bed every night to play with companion Joe in a festive tale making many laugh and cry.
The little boy, aged 7, who is played by young twin brothers from London named Ethan and Tobias, is initially frightened after seeing a pair of enormous eyes peering from the dark under his bed.
But the two unlikely friends are shown sharing games, playing piggyback and Scalextric in his bedroom – all without mum, dad, or older sister finding out.
Moz then leaves his friend as he realises the little boy needs to grow up without him and wraps a farewell gift for him under the Christmas tree – a nightlight to help him sleep.
Elbow performed The Beatles’ Abbey Road masterpiece Golden Slumbers as the soundtrack.
Last year’s star was Buster the Boxer and his trampoline antics.
John Lewis said the advert where the dog, played by five-year-old Biff, beats a young girl to her new toy is their attempt to cheer up Britain after a ‘tough year’.
The advert told the story of a little girl called Bridget who loves to jump.
Set to a cover version of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, her mother and father buy her a trampoline, toiling while she sleeps to build it before hiding it in the garden to surprise her with on Christmas Day. As the snow falls an array of animals start using it as the Boxer watches forlornly through the window.
The next morning Bridget sprints out to use it for the first time but her joy turns to shock as cheeky Buster has the last laugh and uses her new toy before her.
A lonely Man on the Moon is shown to viewers sitting by himself on a bench, completely unaware that he is being observed by the youngster back down on Earth
The elderly man, played by a 77-year-old French actor called Jean, gazes up wistfully towards the Earth, as the Oasis song Half The World Away, performed by 19-year-old Norwegian singer Aurora plays mournfully in the background.
She tries desperately to send him a message but all her efforts fail, while he remains unaware that anyone cares about him and sits alone on a bench, wistfully staring up at the Earth.
Eventually, on Christmas morning, a present arrives from the sky, carried by party balloons, and the old man unwraps it to reveal a vintage telescope.
He uses it to spot Lily and, realising that someone cares about him, his eyes fill with tears.
John Lewis hoped the bond between a boy and a penguin would capture the public’s imagination.
The two-minute festive commercial told the story of seven-year-old Sam, played by actor Rhys Edwards from Hertfordshire, and his friend Monty.
The boy gradually realises Monty is longing for a penguin companion. And so on Christmas morning Sam surprises Monty with the gift of a new penguin friend named Mabel.
The soundtrack was John Lennon’s song Real Love, performed by Tom Odell.
The £7million Disney-inspired advert told the story of a selfless hare who is determined to make sure his best friend, a bear, doesn’t miss Christmas for once.
The commercial features the tale of two good friends, a bear and a hare, who are sad at the thought of being separated for Christmas.
The tale opens as winter is starting to draw in and the fun and excitement of preparing for Christmas begins.
As the first snowflake falls and lands on the bear’s nose, the hare starts to feel sad because he realises his friend will soon go off to hibernate, so – as usual – missing Christmas.
While the bear is keen to join in, eventually he finds he cannot hold off his winter sleep any longer and disappears into his cave.
Viewers see the bear fast asleep while all the other woodland creatures become excited about the big day to come.
However, the hare is missing his friend and finds it increasingly difficult to join in the preparations until the moment he has a great idea for a very special present.
He disappears off in to the wilderness to return with the gift – an alarm clock – which wakes the bear just in time to gather around a beautifully decorated tree to celebrate with all his friends.
The Christmas ad, called The Journey, shows the extraordinary lengths to which some will go in their search for a gift for someone they love.
The 90-second commercial opens in a family’s snow-covered garden, with children happily making a snowman and snowwoman.
When the snowman mysteriously disappears the next morning, the viewer is transported to a magical world, following him on an epic journey across river, mountain, road and city.
The motive for the snowman’s secret journey isn’t revealed until the last scene, when he returns on Christmas morning with gifts for his wife.
Newcomer Gabrielle Aplin sings The Power Of Love, the 1984 hit from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, as the soundtrack.
In 2011, the John Lewis advert showed a young boy so desperately excited about Christmas that he couldn’t wait to give presents to his parents.
It was accompanied by a cover of The Smiths’ Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’.
And the 2010 offering saw individuals choosing and wrapping their presents in the lead up to the big day, as Ellie Goulding sings a cover of Elton John’s Your Song.
Various people furtively hide the presents they’ve carefully chosen: parents sneak a rocking horse upstairs while their children’s backs are turned; a mechanic struggles to wrap a spotted teapot; and a small boy braves the snow in his dressing gown to hang a stocking outside his dog’s kennel.
This was the first of the store’s Christmas campaigns created by advertising agency Adam & Eve, now adam&eveDDB, and the first to feature a musical cover by a current artist, on this occasion a Taken By Trees version of Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses.
The ad shows children opening gifts for adults including a laptop, coffee machine and handbag, followed by the tagline: ‘Remember how Christmas used to feel? Give someone that feeling.’
Culminating in the tagline: ‘If you know the person, you’ll find the present,’ it shows a succession of characters followed by a matching gift.
The soundtrack is a cover of The Beatles’ From Me To You recorded for the campaign, with vocals by Matt Spinner, a member of the John Lewis IT department and its music society.
The ad shows a group of people stacking a pile of potential gifts including a desktop lamp, a computer and a leather satchel in an empty room. The finished product ends up creating a shadow that looks like a woman walking her dog through the snow, accompanied by the tagline: ‘Whoever you’re looking for this Christmas.’