Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian man who lived in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years and whose story inspired Spielberg’s film “The Terminal,” has died at the age of 76.
On Saturday, Mehran Karimi Nasseri died from a heart attack in Terminal 2F, according to an official with the Paris airport authority.
The man lived at Charles de Gaulle airport from 1988 to 2006 first due to a legal limbo as he did not have residency papers, and then by choice.
During his 18 years at the airport, Nasseri spent his time writing his diary, reading magazines, studying economics, and surveying passing travelers. He was nicknamed Lord Alfred by the airport staff, and he became a mini-celebrity among passengers.
Born in 1945 in Iran to an Iranian father and a British mother, Nasseri left his country in 1974 to study in England. According to Nassseri, when he returned to his home country, he was imprisoned for protesting against the shah and expelled without documents.
He applied for political asylum in several countries, but was rejected. A few years later, the UN refugee agency in Belgium gave him refugee status, but Nasseri claimed that the briefcase containing the refugee certificate was stolen.
When French police arrested him, they couldn’t deport him in any country as he had no documents. In August 1988, he ended up at Charles de Gaulle airport, where he remained for several years due to problems with bureaucracy.
When he finally received his refugee papers, he refused to sign them due to insecurity about leaving the airport. He kept living at Charles de Gaulle until 2006, when he was hospitalized. A year later, he was transferred to a charity reception center.
In the weeks before his death, Nasseri had gone back to living at Charles de Gaulle.
Nasseri’s story inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2004 movie The Terminal, as well as a French film Lost in Transit, and an opera called Flight.
The New York Times reported that Spielberg purchased the rights to Nasseri’s life story, paying roughly $250,000.