February 21, 2012 at 01:00 PM EST

Each year, the Oscars recognize A-list talent we regularly see on-screen, on the red carpet, and in tabloids. But the Academy Awards also reward those who work behind the scenes: the writers, editors, costume designers, and others who help create trophy-worthy movie magic. This Oscars season, we’ll be toasting those off-screen artists by delving into the hidden secrets that helped create the on-screen magic that we — and the Academy — fell in love with. For more access backstage during this Oscars season, click here for EW.com’s Oscars Behind the Scenes coverage.

David Fincher is known for regularly delivering thought-provoking, stylish films that often stay with you for weeks, but the director is not given enough credit for his artistic touch on the opening credits for his films, which often play out like moody short films in and of themselves. Couldn’t sleep for a while thanks the chilling ending of Se7en? Those creepy, foreshadowing opening credits probably didn’t help you get a wink either. The manic opening for Fight Club set the stage for the cult favorite, while Zodiacs haunting puzzler made viewers inevitably go back for a second (or third… or fourth) look. And, this year, the Oscar-nominated adaptation The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo boasted an opening to join the pantheon of great Fincher credits.

EW spoke with Tim Miller, the Creative Director of  Blur, the design studio responsible for those dark and thrilling Dragon Tattoo opening credits, on how Fincher approached him for the project, how the two-and-a-half-minute sequence was made, and why moviegoers have reacted to the sequence the way they have.

Tim Miller and David Fincher’s working relationship actually began before The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. “David and I have been friends for a while. Somebody sent him down here for a project four or five years ago and we just got along. [Blur is a] very artist-driven studio and David really likes that,” Miller explains. “When he made the decision that he wanted to do something that was completely CG [for the opening credits of Dragon Tattoo], he didn’t want to shoot anything. [He] wanted to do everything photo-surreal, instead of [using] traditional film effects.”

“He called and said, ‘You’re doing the titles, f—er’ and that was kind of it. Believe it or not, I tried to get out of it at first [because] we don’t do titles normally and I said, ‘There are a lot of great companies in town that do that for a living,’ but I think he knew what he wanted and knew we could do it. David had a very precise idea of what he wanted but he points you in a direction, instead of pushing you in a direction,” Miller says. And if you thought the opening credits appeared inspired by those starring a certain British spy, you’d be right: “The first time we talked about it he said, ‘Imagine James Bond if he was a 22-year-old bisexual cutter’ and I think that was his vision for the [Lisbeth Salander] character.”

Next: The making of the opening credits and moviegoers reactions…

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