Iranian man who inspired the film ‘The Terminal’ dies at CDG.
A man who lived for 18 years in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, and whose saga loosely inspired the Steven Spielberg film “The Terminal,” died Saturday in the airport that he long called home.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri died of a heart attack in the airport’s Terminal 2F around midday on Saturday. Police and a medical team responded to the emergency call but were not able to save him.
According to the official account of his life that he himself would later dispute, Nasseri was born in Iran’s oil-rich south as one of six children, to a doctor father who worked for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
Aged 23, soon after his father died of cancer, his mother informed him that she was not his real mother and he was the result of an affair between his father and a Scottish nurse.
Nasseri made his way to England, spending three years studying Yugoslav Studies at the University of Bradford and participated in a protest against the Shah, which was given as a reason for him being stripped of his passport upon his return to Iran.
Granted refugee status by Belgium in 1981, he tried to travel on to Britain to find his real mother, whom he believed to reside in Glasgow. He discarded his identification papers onboard an England-bound ship in the belief he would no longer require them, and fell into a stateless limbo.
Repeatedly detained upon arrival in the UK and sent back to Belgium or France, he eventually gave up and settled at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport indefinitely.
For years, he slept on a red plastic bench, making friends with airport workers, showering in staff facilities, writing in his diary, reading magazines and surveying passing travellers.
Staff nicknamed him Lord Alfred, and he became a mini-celebrity among passengers.
Those who befriended him in the airport said the years of living in the windowless space took a toll on his mental state.
An airport doctor in the 1990s worried about his physical and mental health, and described him as “fossilized.” A ticket agent friend compared him to a prisoner incapable of “living on the outside.”
In 1992, a French court ruled that Nasseri had entered the airport legally as a refugee and could not be expelled from it.
According to reports, French authorities offered Nasseri to reside in France, but he turned down the offer because he wanted to get to his original destination, England.