Mehran Karimi Nasseri, 76, who lived at Charles de Gaulle airport for 18 years, died of a heart attack in Terminal 2F.
The saga of an Iranian man who lived for 18 years at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport roughly inspired Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal, died at the airport he long called home.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri, 76, died after suffering a heart attack at the airport’s Terminal 2F at noon on Saturday, according to an official with the Paris airport authority. Police and medical teams treated him but were unable to save him.
Nasseri lived at the airport’s Terminal 1 from 1988 to 2006, initially because he didn’t have a residence permit and then apparently by choice.
He slept on a red plastic bench surrounded by boxes of newspapers and magazines and showered in the staff facility. He spends his time writing diaries, reading magazines, researching economics and surveying passing travelers.
Staff called him Lord Alfred, and he became a minor celebrity among the passengers.
“Eventually, I’ll leave the airport,” he told The Associated Press in 1999, smoking a pipe on a bench and looking frail with thinning hair, sunken eyes and sunken cheeks. “But I’m still waiting for a passport or a transit visa.”
Nasseri was born in 1945 in Suleiman, part of then-British-administered Iran, to an Iranian father and a British mother. He left Iran in 1974 to study in the UK. When he returned, he said, he was imprisoned for protesting against the king and deported without a passport.
He applied for political asylum in several European countries, including the United Kingdom, but was rejected. Eventually, Belgium’s UN refugee agency gave him a refugee card, but he says his briefcase containing it was stolen at a Paris train station.
French police later arrested him but could not deport him because there were no official documents. In August 1988, he finally came to Charles de Gaulle and stayed there.
Further bureaucracy and increasingly stringent European immigration laws have kept him in legal no-man’s land for years.
When he finally received the refugee documents, he described being surprised and insecure leaving the airport, authorities officials said. He reportedly refused to sign the documents and ended up staying there for several years until he was hospitalized in 2006 and later in a shelter in Paris.
People who knew him at the airport said years of living in a windowless space had taken a toll on his mental state. Airport doctors in the 1990s worried about his physical and mental health, calling him “the fossil here”. A conductor friend likened him to a prisoner who couldn’t “live outside”.
In the weeks before his death, Nasseri returned to de Gaulle’s life.
Nasseri’s incredible story largely inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film “Terminal,” starring Tom Hanks, the French film “Lost on the Road,” and a film called “Flight.” ‘s opera.
In The Terminal, Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, who arrives at New York’s JFK Airport from the fictional Eastern European country of Krakózia to find that an overnight political revolution has invalidated all his travel documents. Navorski was thrown into the airport’s international lounge and told he had to stay there until his identity was resolved, which continued as the unrest in Krakozhia continued.
According to The New York Times, Spielberg purchased the rights to Nasseri’s life story for about $250,000 through his production company, DreamWorks.
Naseri also wrote an autobiography called Terminal Man, published in 2004.