Evanston native advises TV show 'Project Blue Book' on his UFO expert dad

You can believe Paul Hynek when he says his bedroom in Evanston used to be the world's largest UFO library.

His father, the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek, became Earth's most famous UFO investigator, an eminent Northwestern University astronomy professor who founded the Center for UFO Studies in 1973.

(He's that bearded guy with the pipe you see in the crowd gathered to witness a spaceship landing in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind.")

Now, his son Paul serves as the adviser to a new fact-based TV drama series titled "Project Blue Book," premiering at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, on History.

Aidan Gillen, most known as the villainous Littlefinger on HBO's "Game of Thrones," plays Professor Hynek, hired by the U.S. Air Force to debunk reports of unidentified flying objects from a concerned public.

Would Professor Hynek, who died in 1988, approve?

"I think he would look at this project in service of the truth," Paul Hynek said, "and of getting people to understand that there's a credible phenomenon here and we should be open. Each of our episodes is based on a real case and real reports.

"Yes, it stretches what happens, but part of that stretch is visualizing the things that were actually reported. A witness says that he saw this oval-shaped craft land and these beings came out. Like 'Close Encounters,' the show visualizes these events."

So, what was it like to grow up with his dad?

"Just sitting and talking with him was like an intellectual theme park filled with ideas.

"I am one of the luckiest people in the world to be born here in Evanston and to my family. It was an amazing, loving, supportive, challenging environment."

Paul Hynek became a multi-hyphenate success in business, technology and entertainment, having raised more than $1 billion for startup companies, and leading Giant Studios' creation of virtual production motion capture software that James Cameron purchased for his next four "Avatar" sequels.

Nonetheless, he'll always be the Evanston kid who had the coolest dad in town.

"I found out recently that a big silver sphere we had was from some famous UFO case in Florida," he said. "We would just kick it around on the floor because we didn't know what it was."

Northwestern University astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek founded the Center for UFO Studies. His research inspired the History channel drama series “Project Blue Book.” Associated Press file photo, 1962
Aidan Gillen portrays Dr. J. Allen Hynek in History's new drama series “Project Blue Book,” premiering Tuesday, Jan. 8. Courtesy of History Channel
Evanston's Paul Hynek serves as the adviser to “Project Blue Book,” a new fact-based TV series about his father. Courtesy of Dann Gire
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