Iranian who lived in Paris airport for 18 years, inspiring Hollywood movie, dies

An Iranian who was stuck for 18 years at a Paris airport, inspiring a Steven Spielberg movie starring Tom Hanks, died Saturday at the terminal, an airport official said.

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Mehran Karimi Nasseri died of natural causes shortly before noon on Saturday in Terminal 2F of Charles de Gaulle airport outside the French capital, the official told AFP.

Initially caught in an immigration trap – unable to enter France and with nowhere to go – he became addicted to his unusual place of residence and increasingly a national and international celebrity.

He called himself “Sir Alfred”, and a small patch of airport parquet and plastic bench became his domain.

Karimi Nasseri’s peculiar story came to the attention of Hollywood director Spielberg, inspiring the 2004 film “The Terminal,” starring Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Hanks played a man who becomes trapped in New York’s JFK airport as his homeland collapses into revolution.

After spending most of the money he received for the film, Karimi Nasseri returned to the airport a few weeks ago, the official said.

Several thousand euros (dollars) were found on him.

Born in 1945 in Masjed Soleiman in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, Karimi Nasseri settled at the airport in November 1988 after flying from Iran to London, Berlin and Amsterdam in an attempt to find his mother.

He had been deported from every other country he landed in because he couldn’t produce the proper paperwork.

At Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, an informal support network grew up around him, providing food and medical aid along with books and a radio.

In 1999, he received refugee status and the right to remain in France.

“I’m not really sure what I want to do, stay at Roissy or leave,” he said after receiving the right to live in France. “I have papers, I can stay here, I think I should carefully study all options before making a decision.”

He didn’t go then.

“He no longer wants to leave the airport,” his lawyer Christian Bourguet said at the time. “He’s afraid to go.”


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