September 30, 2023
The Iranian Refugee Who Inspired 2004's The Terminal Dead at 76

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian man who lived in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1998 to 2006 and inspired the Steven Spielberg film The Terminal, is dead at 76 after suffering a heart attack in the airport’s Terminal 2F on November 12th.

According to CNN, Nasseri had recently returned to the location where he had first gained notoriety as a refugee who spent 18 years at de Gaulle’s Terminal 1. He had been residing on the premises since “mid-September, after a stay in a nursing home” and was pronounced dead by an airport medical team.

Nasseri was born in Soleiman, Iran in 1945. He traveled to study in England in 1974 and was promptly exiled from his home country upon his return for “protesting the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi,” per The New York Times. He became stranded at the Paris airport in August 1988 after allegedly losing his residency credentials while in transit to seek asylum. Although the numerous legal obstacles that prevented his release were eventually cleared, Nasseri ultimately decided to stay on his own volition until he was hospitalized in July 2006.

“Sir Alfred,” as he was dubbed by the airport staff, became a staple of the terminal and spent nearly two decades sleeping on a bench in an enclave of the public space, reading magazines, writing in his diary, and smoking his pipe. His predicament eventually caught the attention of Spielberg, who purchased the rights to Nasseri’s life story for roughly $250,000. The result was 2004’s The Terminal, which starred Tom Hanks as a European immigrant from the fictional country Krakozhia, who gets stuck in limbo at New York’s JFK Airport after an overnight coup renders his traveling papers invalid.

Nasseri’s memoir, The Terminal Man, coincided with the film’s release in 2004.

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