The man who resided inside an airport for almost two decades and inspired the movie “The Terminal” died on Saturday in the airport where he had returned to live.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri was a refugee from Iran who lived in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, for 18 years. He reportedly died in Terminal 2F around noon on Saturday. An airport representative said he sustained a fatal heart attack. Nasseri’s age was not immediately available, but he was in his late 70s, according to The New York Times. The BBC reported that he was born in 1945.
He had been living in a care facility earlier this year but came back to the airport a few months ago “to live as a homeless person in the public space of the airport,” the representative said. He also reportedly had several thousand euros on him.
“The reality is that he had psychological problems,” the spokesperson said. “He was a homeless person who was taken care of by the airport community and doctors.”
“Many people went to great lengths to have him hospitalized and put into a care home adapted to his needs,” the spokesperson noted, per The Washington Post.
The airport also reportedly stated, “we would have preferred that he find a real shelter.”
Nasseri left Iran in the 1970s, either because he was banished or trying to escape political unrest. He attempted to find his mother in Europe and tried to enter other countries but was deported because he didn’t have proper documentation. He lived in Belgium for several years before making his way to France. Once there, he wasn’t allowed to migrate because he didn’t have the correct paperwork. Authorities let him go into the Charles de Gaulle airport, and he ended up living there for several years.
The tale inspired the movie, “The Terminal,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. There were rumors that DreamWorks Pictures paid Nasseri $275,000 for the rights to the movie, as well as some consulting roles.
In 1999, he was allowed to exit the airport and travel freely in Europe, but he didn’t want to leave.
”He is scared to leave this bubble world he has been living in,” said Dr. Philippe Bargain, the airport’s medical director. ”Finally getting the papers has been a huge shock to him, as if he was just thrown from his horse. When you wait 11 years for something and suddenly in a few minutes you sign some papers and it’s done — imagine what a shock that is.”