Man Who Inspired Tom Hanks Movie ‘The Terminal’ Dies At Airport

Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images

Alyssa Blakemore Contributor
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The Iranian man whose life inspired the 2004 film “The Terminal” died Saturday in the Paris airport he called home for 18 years.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri suffered a heart attack in the Charles de Gaulle airport’s Terminal 2F and was unable to be revived, the Associated Press reported, citing an airport official. Nasseri’s life story earned him celebrity status and inspired the Hollywood film “The Terminal” which starred Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones and was directed by Steven Spielberg, according to BBC.

The movie follows Viktor Navorski, a traveler from a fictional Eastern European country, who becomes stuck at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport due to invalid travel documents, the AP notes. (RELATED: Celebrate Tom Hanks’ Birthday With His Greatest Movies)

BERLIN – SEPTEMBER 6: Actor Tom Hanks attends the photocall for his new film “The Terminal” at the Adlon Hotel September 6, 2004 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Nasseri lived in Terminal 1 from 1988 until 2006, sleeping on a red plastic bench, showering in staff facilities and making friends with airport employees, the outlet reported. He spent his time logging entries in his diary, reading magazines and people watching, according to AP.

The Iranian endeared himself to staff and passengers alike, AP noted. “Eventually, I will leave the airport,” Nasseri told the AP in 1999. “But I am still waiting for a passport or transit visa.”

Nasseri, born in Iran in 1945, left the country in 1974 to study in England, AP noted. He was imprisoned on his return for protests against the shah and expelled without a passport, the outlet reported. The Iranian sought political asylum in Europe, but lacked proper documentation, according to the outlet. He eventually ended up in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, choosing to remain there for several years even after being granted refugee status.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Nasseri reportedly moved back into the airport terminal, AP reported.