Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived for 18 years in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, has died.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri slept on the same red plastic bench year after year. He made friends with airport workers, showered in the staff bathrooms, wrote in his diary, and watched people come and go.
Steven Spielberg’s movie The Terminal was based on the life of an Iranian man who died at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he lived for 18 years.
An official with the Paris airport said that Mehran Karimi Nasseri died of a heart attack in Terminal 2F on Saturday.
The official said that police and a medical team were called, but they were not able to save him.
French media say that Nasseri, who was probably born in 1945, lived in the airport’s Terminal 1 from 1988 to 2006. At first, he did this because he didn’t have residency papers, but later, he did it on purpose.
The airport worker said that he had been living there again for the past few weeks.
His story was the basis for the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal and a French movie.
He slept on the same red plastic bench year after year, making friends with the people who worked at the airport, taking showers in the staff bathrooms, writing in his diary, reading magazines, and watching people come and go.
The staff called him “Lord Alfred,” and passengers started to know who he was.
“Eventually, I’ll leave the airport,” he told The Associated Press in 1999 while sitting on a bench and smoking a pipe. He was thin and had long, thin hair. His eyes were sunken and his cheeks were hollow.
“But I haven’t gotten my passport or transit visa yet.”
Held up for years
Nasseri was born in 1945 in Soleiman, a part of Iran that was then ruled by the British. His father was Iranian, and his mother was British.
In 1974, he left Iran to go to school in England. When he got back, he said that he had been locked up for protesting against the shah and then sent away without a passport.
He tried to get political asylum in more than one European country.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Belgium gave him refugee papers, but he said that his briefcase with the papers was stolen from a Paris train station.
Later, the French police caught him, but they couldn’t send him anywhere because he didn’t have any official papers. In August 1988, he went to Charles de Gaulle and stayed there.
More mistakes by the government and stricter immigration laws in Europe kept him in a legal no-land man’s for years.
When he finally got refugee papers, he talked about how surprised he was and how scared he was to leave the airport.
He didn’t sign them, so he stayed there for a few more years, until he was taken to the hospital in 2006 and then moved to a shelter in Paris.
People who got to know him in the airport said that years of living in a room with no windows had affected his mind.
In the 1990s, the airport doctor was worried about his physical and mental health and said that he had “frozen here.”
A friend who works as a ticket agent said that he was like a prisoner who couldn’t “live on the outside.”
Nasseri’s crazy story was the basis for the 2004 Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, the French movie Lost in Transit, and an opera called Flight.
In The Terminal, Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, a man who comes to New York’s JFK airport from the made-up country of Krakozhia in Eastern Europe and finds that an overnight political change has made all of his travel documents useless.
Viktor is dumped in the international lounge of the airport and told to stay there until his status is figured out. This takes a long time because there is still unrest in Krakozhia.