The Iranian man who inspired the events behind Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film “The Terminal” died Saturday at the Paris airport where he lived for nearly 20 years, officials said.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri died at Charles de Gaulle airport, his home for 18 years, from a heart attack in the airport’s Terminal 2F around noon, according to a Paris airport authority official.
Emergency services treated him on the spot but were unable to rescue him, an official said.
Nasseri’s life was the inspiration behind the American comedy, with Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a man from the fictional Eastern European country of Krakozhia who gets stuck and forced to live at JFK airport.
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The real person behind the fictional story lived in Paris Airport’s Terminal 1 from 1988 to 2006, initially as a result of an unsuccessful deportation turned into legal limbo.
Later he remained by apparent choice.
Over the years, Nasseri has become something of a celebrity, sleeping on a red plastic bench, making friends with airport workers, showering in staff facilities, and reading magazines.
“Eventually, I’ll leave the airport,” he told The Associated Press in 1999. “But I’m still waiting for a passport or transit visa.”
Born in Soleiman in 1945, Nasseri left Iran to study in England in 1974. When he returned home, he said, he was jailed for protesting the Shah.
He was subsequently deported without a passport.
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His legal problems escalated when he applied for asylum and was granted by UNHCR in Belgium, but said the refugee certificate was stolen at a Paris train station.
Nasseri was then arrested by the French police and deported, but he did not have official documents.
He was then sent to Charles de Gaulle in August 1988, where he remained.
European immigration laws have become stricter over the years, preventing any salvation from her legal situation. But he eventually received his refugee papers.
When confronted with the reality that he may have to leave the airport he had learned to enjoy as his new home, he reportedly refused to sign them.
Nasseri was hospitalized in 2006 and later moved to a reception center in Paris.
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In the weeks before his death, Nasseri had been living in Charles de Gaulle again, the airport official said.
His story vaguely inspired Spielberg, as did a French film, “Lost in Transit”, and a work called “Flight”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.