Estate of Denial:  THE premiere of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a suitably high-profile occasion.

This is, after all, the long-awaited screen version of what has become a publishing ­phenomenon almost on a par with the Harry Potter series.

Author Stieg Larsson never knew how successful he would be as he died just before his first best-seller was published.

But his heirs have certainly reaped the benefits. More than ­ 50 million people have bought a Stieg Larsson thriller and they’re still ­buying in droves. If Larsson’s estate makes one pound from each book sold – a conservative estimate – then his heirs have already made around £50million from the novels alone.

The film rights, which have been sold twice, brought in more. The first film adaptation, made by a Swedish company, has generated more than £70million. Sony bought the English-­language rights with American ­producer Scott Rudin and it is their version, directed by David Fincher, which premiered on Monday and will go on general release on Boxing Day.

The fact they spent $100million on it suggests they are confident it will not only recoup its costs but surpass them by some margin.

Shot largely in Sweden, the film stars Bond actor Daniel Craig – suitably Nordic and gloomy as investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Lisbeth Salander, the deeply disturbed computer whizz anti-heroine is played by Rooney Mara, known so far only for a small role as the girlfriend who dumps Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of The Social Network.

The ­impressive supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff, Stellan Skarsgard and former ER heartthrob Goran Visnjic. With that kind of line-up Larsson’s heirs look set for another mega-payday, which is likely to be repeated when the other two books in the trilogy are filmed.

And that’s before we even consider the spin-offs. A Dragon Tattoo fashion range is already available in Paris and will go on sale this week in H&M in Britain. The collection of boots, grandad T-shirts and leather leggings is the work of Trish Summerville who designed the costumes for the film.

Yesterday it was announced that Larsson’s literary estate has commissioned Glaswegian crime novelist Denise Mina to turn the three Salander books into six graphic novels for DC ­Comics.

The only fly in this very lucrative ointment is the question of who benefits from all Larsson’s posthumous prosperity. Seven years after the author’s death from a heart attack, the argument rages as bitterly as ever between those who have been declared his heirs and the woman who says that position is rightfully hers.

For 32 years – that is from the age of 18 until his death at 50 – Stieg Larsson lived with Eva Gabrielsson. Though they never married it would be hard to deny that she is effectively his widow.

The trouble is that Larsson died intestate and in Swedish law, unmarried couples cannot inherit from each other. Instead it is ­Larsson’s father Erland, and his younger brother Joakim who have raked in the millions. And they are not sharing anything.

Continue reading about the Dragon Tattoo estate fight