An Iranian guy who spent 18 years living in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and whose story served as a loose inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal has passed away.
According to a representative of the Paris airport authorities, Mehran Karimi Nasseri, 76, passed away after having a heart attack in Terminal 2F of the airport at about lunchtime. He was treated by police and a medical crew, but they were unable to rescue him.
The Steven Spielberg film The Terminal was partially based on the life of an Iranian guy who spent 18 years living in the Charles de Gaulle Terminal in Paris. The man passed away in the airport he long called home.
“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.”
Nasseri was born in 1945 to an Iranian father and a British mother in Soleiman, a region of Iran that was then governed by the British. In 1974, he left Iran to attend college in England. He claimed that upon his return, he was deported without a passport and imprisoned for engaging in anti-Shah protests.
He sought political refuge in a number of European nations, including the UK, but was denied. He eventually received refugee credentials from the UN organisation for refugees in Belgium, but he claimed that his briefcase, which contained the refugee certificate, was taken at a train station in Paris.
He was later detained by French police, but they were unable to transfer him anyplace since he lacked identification. In August 1988, he arrived at Charles de Gaulle and stayed there.
He spent years in a legal grey area due to more inept bureaucracy and stricter immigration restrictions in Europe.
According to the representative of the authorities, when the man eventually acquired refugee papers, he spoke of his surprise and his anxiety about leaving the airport. He allegedly refused to sign them and remained there for several more years before being admitted to the hospital in 2006 and afterwards residing in a shelter in Paris.
Those who made friends with him in the airport claimed that the years spent residing in the roomless area had a negative impact on his mental health. In the 1990s, the airport doctor expressed concern for his physical and emotional well-being and labelled him as “fossilised here.” He was compared to a prisoner who couldn’t “live on the outside” by a fellow ticket salesperson.
Prior to passing away, Nasseri had returned to reside at Charles de Gaulle.
Nasseri’s perplexing story served as a loose inspiration for other works, including the opera Flight, the French film Lost in Transit, and Steven Spielberg’s 2004 Tom Hanks-starring picture The Terminal.
Hanks portrays Viktor Navorski, a man who, upon arriving at JFK airport in New York from the fictional eastern European nation of Krakozhia, finds that all of his travel documents have been rendered invalid by an overnight political revolution. In the midst of ongoing violence in Krakozhia, Navorski is abruptly dropped into the airport’s international lounge and instructed to remain there until his status is resolved.
The New York Times reports that Spielberg paid about $250,000 through his production company DreamWorks to acquire the rights to Nasseri’s life story.
The Terminal Man, an autobiography by Nasseri, was published in 2004.