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Man who inspired movie The Terminal with Tom Hanks dies in airport

Emily Brown

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Man who inspired movie The Terminal with Tom Hanks dies in airport

The man who inspired Tom Hanks' movie The Terminal has died at Charles de Gaulle Airport after previously having lived there for 18 years.

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Released in 2004, The Terminal followed Hanks' character as he made himself a home in New York's John F. Kennedy Airport after being denied entry to the United States, and prevented from travelling back to his home country because of a military coup.

It's pitted as a comedy, but still pulls at the heartstrings as the protagonist realises he has nowhere left to turn, in the end resigning himself to eating airport food - and dealing with a daily dose of travellers from across the globe.

The plot itself seems too surreal to be based on real life, but in fact it's just a snapshot of the experience of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian man who spent almost two decades living in one of Paris' main airports.

Tom Hanks played a character similar to Nasseri in The Terminal. Credit: DreamWorks Pictures
Tom Hanks played a character similar to Nasseri in The Terminal. Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

Nasseri found himself in legal limbo after arriving in Paris in 1988 because he did not have residency papers. He remained in Terminal 1 until 2006, sleeping on a red plastic bench and showering in facilities designed for employees.

In 1999, he told the Associated Press: "Eventually I will leave the airport. But I am still waiting for a passport or transit visa."

When his documents came, however, he described his fears over leaving the airport and is said to have refused to sign the papers. He remained at the airport before being admitted to a hospital in 2006.

According to an official with the Paris airport authority, Nasseri returned to live there again in recent weeks.

Yesterday (12 November), he suffered a heart attack while in Terminal 2F. Emergency services were called to help, but were not able to save him.

Nasseri's experience inspired The Terminal. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
Nasseri's experience inspired The Terminal. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Nasseri previously shared his experience in a book titled The Terminal Man, which was published the same year as Hanks' film.

He was born in Soleiman, a part of Iran which was previously under British jurisdiction, to an Iranian father and British mother and later claimed to have been mugged while on his way to Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1988.

After boarding a plane to London he was sent back to Paris, but when he tried to leave the airport he was arrested and jailed for six months, according to his book.

He then returned to the airport, but was refused access to any other nation. With nowhere else to go, he made Charles de Gaulle his temporary home.

Featured Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures/REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Tom Hanks, TV and Film, World News

Emily Brown
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