Marilyn makes a comeback from beyond the grave

Branding expert buys rights to use dead star's name to market makeup and lingerie
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The Independent Online

Marilyn Monroe could soon resume her film career, almost five decades after her death, says the man who has just bought the rights to her image. The possibility of licensing a computer-generated Monroe to star in new movies is just one of the money-spinning ideas of Jamie Salter, who revealed his multimillion-dollar deal for the star's "name and likeness" yesterday.

Proving that dead celebrities are big business, the deal means that we can expect Monroe's image – or even just her striking and forever recognisable lips or eyes – on a new range of clothing, perfumes and jewellery.

Mr Salter's firm, Authentic Brands, already manages the image of Bob Marley on behalf of the late singer's family, and the Monroe venture has been given the stamp of approval by Anna Strasberg, whose late husband, the acting teacher Lee Strasberg, was Monroe's mentor and the beneficiary of her will.

Ms Strasberg signed the deal to sell the rights last week and, though the sums involved were not disclosed, she said she would keep a minority interest in the new venture.

"Why does Lindsay Lohan aspire to be Marilyn Monroe?" asked Mr Salter. "Why does Lady Gaga aspire to be Marilyn Monroe? The reason is that she is an iconic personality, she has great style, she is just simply elegant. She stands for glamour, and sex appeal, and – remember this – she proves that size doesn't matter. She is voluptuous, a real woman. The younger generation will fall in love with her the way we fell in love." Monroe died of an overdose in 1962 at the age of 36, at the height of her career, freezing her beauty in time. With retailers increasingly demanding celebrity-branded products to help give their clothing, jewellery or perfume lines an edge over the competition, Mr Salter set up Authentic Brands to buy rights to major brands and to push licensing deals.

Ms Strasberg praised his "bold, imaginative ideas" for keeping Monroe's image alive into the 21st century, and promised she would continue "to carry out with integrity Marilyn's great and timeless legacy".

Ideas already on the table include a reality TV show to find "the next face of Marilyn Monroe", Mr Salter told The Independent, and new technology being pioneered by the likes of director George Lucas, which can recreate long-dead actors in digital form, means that it is only a matter of time before the star resumes her movie career.

"These celebrities don't talk back," Mr Salter added. "They don't go out on the town late. They are ready to film every day."

In Marilyn's filming heyday, she had a ferocious reputation for lateness on set and mood swings that exasperated co-stars and drove directors to near-madness.

Forbes' top-earning dead celebrities

$275m Michael Jackson Dead or alive, the King of Pop has made more money that than any other artist. Much of the $275m he earned in 2009/2010 came from the rights to the Sony film, This Is It!

$60m Elvis Presley Elvis's earnings jumped to $60m last year, helped by Graceland and the Elvis Presley Cirque du Soleil spectacular.

$50m JRR Tolkien It may be eight years since the final Lord of the Rings film was released but Tolkien is still hot property, raking in $50m last year. A new film, The Hobbit, is in production in New Zealand.

$33m Charles Schultz Peanuts cartoons appear in more than 2,000 newspapers in 75 countries across the world.