Iranian man who inspired Tom Hanks film The Terminal dies in airport he lived in for 18 years

13 November 2022, 08:00

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who inspired The Terminal, has died
Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who inspired The Terminal, has died. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

An Iranian man who inspired the classic Tom Hanks film The Terminal has died at Charles de Gaulle airport, where he lived for almost 20 years.

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Mehran Karimi Nasseri suffered a heart attack at Terminal 2F in the Parisian airport on Saturday.

He lived in Terminal 1 between 1988 and 2006, at first because he did not have residency papers, and then out of choice.

Mr Nasseri, believed to have been born in 1945, would sleep on a red plastic bench, socialise with airport staff and shower in facilities for employees.

Nicknamed Lord Alfred, he would pass the time by reading magazines, people watching and writing in his diary.

Mr Nasseri inspired The Terminal
Mr Nasseri inspired The Terminal. Picture: Getty

His unusual residency inspired the 2004 Steven Spielberg film, in which Mr Hanks played a character based on Mr Nasseri's plight. However, that character is instead an Eastern European man who is unable to return due to an overnight revolution in his homeland.

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Mr Nasseri had returned to the airport to live there again in recent weeks.

He was born in Soleiman, Iran, when it was under British control, then studied in the UK from 1974 but was imprisoned for protesting against the shah, the then-ruler of Iran, on his return.

Tom Hanks starred on a character based on Mr Nasseri in The Terminal
Tom Hanks starred on a character based on Mr Nasseri in The Terminal. Picture: Getty
Mr Nasseri lived at Charles de Gaulle for nearly 20 years
Mr Nasseri lived at Charles de Gaulle for nearly 20 years. Picture: Getty

He was expelled without a passport and began travelling Europe seeking for asylum.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees gave him credentials but Mr Nasseri claimed his briefcase holding the papers was stolen in Paris.

When he was arrested by police, they found they were unable to deport him as he had no official documents.

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He began living at Charles de Gaulle in August 1988. He was finally given refugee papers but was apprehensive to leave the airport, staying for years until going to hospital in 2006 and finally moving to a shelter in Paris.

Doctors became concerned about his wellbeing at the shelter, though, while a friend who worked at the airport compared him to prisoners who are unable to live outside of jail.

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