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Iranian Man Who Lived In Paris Airport For 18 Years, Inspired Steven Spielberg Movie, 'The Terminal', Dies

November 13, 2022

The man whose experience inspired the Steven Spielberg film “The Terminal” died Saturday in the airport that he long called home, officials said.

An Iranian man, Mehran Karimi Nasseri who lived for 18 years in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport has died.


The man whose experience inspired the Steven Spielberg film “The Terminal” died Saturday in the airport that he long called home, officials said.

India Times reports that Mehran Karimi Nasseri died after a heart attack in the airport’s Terminal 2F around midday, according an official with the Paris airport authority.


Police and a medical team treated him but were not able to save him, the official said. 


Caught in a diplomatic limbo, Mehran Karimi Nasseri made a small area of Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport his home from 1988 until 2006, because he lacked residency papers and later by apparent choice.


According to the report, year in and year out, he slept on a red plastic bench, making friends with airport workers, showering in staff facilities, writing in his diary, reading magazines and surveying passing travelers.


Staff nicknamed him Lord Alfred, and he became a mini-celebrity among passengers.


“Eventually, I will leave the airport,” he told The Associated Press in 1999, smoking a pipe on his bench, looking frail with long thin hair, sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. “But I am still waiting for a passport or transit visa.”


He left Iran to study in England in 1974. When he returned, he said, he was imprisoned for protesting against the Shah and expelled without a passport.


He applied for political asylum in several countries in Europe. The UNHCR in Belgium gave him refugee credentials, but he said his briefcase containing the refugee certificate was stolen in a Paris train station.


French police later arrested him, but couldn't deport him anywhere because he had no official documents. He ended up at Charles de Gaulle in August 1988 and stayed.


Born in 1945 in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, Mr Nasseri first flew to Europe in search of his mother.


He spent some years living in Belgium, having been expelled from countries including the UK, the Netherlands and Germany for not having the correct immigration documents. 


Thereafter he went to France, where he made the airport's 2F Terminal his home.


Nestled on his bench surrounded by trolleys containing the possessions he had accumulated, he spent his days writing about his life in a notebook and reading books and newspapers.


His story attracted international media attention and caught the eye of Steven Spielberg, who directed The Terminal, starring Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.


After the film's release, journalists flocked to speak with the man who had inspired a Hollywood movie. At one point, Mr Nazzeri, who called himself "Sir Alfred," was giving up to six interviews a day, Le Parisien reports.


Despite being granted refugee status and the right to remain in France in 1999, he stayed at the airport until 2006, when he was taken to hospital to be treated for an illness. He then spent time living in a hostel using the money he had received for the film, French newspaper Libération reports.


Mr Nasseri returned to the airport a few weeks ago, where he lived until he died, an airport official said.


He was found with thousands of euros in his possession, the official added.