Iranian Refugee Who Inspired Steven Spielberg's 'The Terminal' Dies in Paris Airport

Image via Getty/Christophe Calais
Image via Getty/Christophe Calais

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who famously inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film The Terminal, died inside the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, CNN reports.

The Iranian refugee, who lived in the French airport from 1988 until he was hospitalized in 2006, was pronounced dead on Saturday, Nov. 12 at the age of 76, per Le Monde. According to an airport spokesperson, Nasseri died of natural causes in Terminal 2F. The spokesperson added that he “returned to live as a homeless person in the public area of the airport since mid-September, after a stay in a nursing home.”

Nasseri made his home at the airport in 1988 after he lost his papers and was unable to board his flight or leave the airport. After he fled Iran prior to his stay in France, he spent time living in Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany, where he was expelled for not having the correct immigration documents. He was eventually granted refugee status in 1999, but stuck around at the airport until his hospitalization in 2006.

A spokesperson for the airport described Nasseri as an “iconic character,” and said thee “whole airport community was attached to him, and our staff looked after him as much as possible during many years, even if we would have preferred him to find a real shelter.”

Tom Hanks played the character loosely based off of Nasseri in Spielberg’s film. “The Spielberg film suggests that he was stuck in a transit zone at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. In reality, he spent several stays there, but always in the public area of the airport, he was always free to move around,” added the spokesperson.

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