Man who inspired ‘The Terminal’ movie dies in Paris airport

Mehran Karimi Nasseri stands in front of a poster of Steven Spielberg's movie "The Terminal" loosely based on his life in Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal 1 where he has been living since 1988. Getty Images

An Iranian man who called ParisCharles de Gaulle airport home for 18 years — and inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film The Terminal — died in the airport on Saturday.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who was in his late 70s, died of a heart attack in Terminal 2F around noon, according to a spokesperson for the Paris airport.

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“He was an iconic, charismatic character. There is a lot of emotion at the airport in the wake of his death,” the spokesperson said.

Nasseri, who referred to himself as Sir Alfred Mehran, arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in 1988 but did not leave due to complications in obtaining refugee status. He lived in the airport’s Terminal 1 until 2006.

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While alive, he often provided conflicting details about his life and claimed to be a British citizen. He is believed to have been born in the Iranian province of Khuzestan and was travelling in search of his British mother, according to the BBC.

The New York Times claimed Nasseri was exiled from Iran for antigovernment activity in 1977. As a student in England, he allegedly protested the government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Before taking up residence at the airport, Nasseri also traversed Europe and was reportedly expelled from several countries for lacking proper immigration paperwork.

Nasseri was much beloved by airport staff and was often seen reading the newspaper or writing in his journals alongside his trolleys of possessions.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, also known as “Sir Alfred,’ standing alongside his possessions in the Charles de Gaulle airport. Getty Images

A loose adaption of Nasseri’s life in the airport was made into the film The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Nasseri is not named in the film or any promotional material but was reportedly paid for his story.

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In 1999, France offered Nasseri permanent residency. He did not leave the airport until 2006 for a medical procedure. Afterward, he struggled to adapt as a person continuing to experience homelessness.

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“The reality is that he had psychological problems,” the Paris airport spokesperson said. “He was a homeless person who was taken care of by the airport community and doctors.”

He returned to the airport in mid-September, according to the New York Times.

The airport spokesperson claimed Nasseri was found with several thousands of euros among his possessions.

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