Iranian Died as He Lived—in the Airport

Merhan Karimi Nasseri settled in de Gaulle in 1988
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 12, 2022 3:15 PM CST
The Terminal Inspiration Was Happy in the Airport
Merhan Karimi Nasseri sits among his belongings at Charles De Gaulle Airport in 2004.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

An Iranian man who lived in Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years and inspired the 2004 film The Terminal died there Saturday. Merhan Karimi Nasseri had a heart attack in the airport's Terminal 2F around midday, said an official with the Paris airport authority. Police and a medical team treated him but were not able to save him, the AP reports. Karimi Nasseri, believed to be 77, lived in the airport's Terminal 1 from 1988 until 2006, first in legal limbo because he lacked residency papers and later by choice, according to French media reports. He had been living in the airport again in recent weeks, the airport official said.

Karimi Nasseri was granted refugee status and the right to remain in France in 1999. "He no longer wants to leave the airport," his lawyer said at the time, per the Daily Beast. "He's scared of going." Karimi Nasseri initially lived on food vouchers given to him by airport workers, per USA Today. He staked out a bench near the Paris Bye Bye departure lounge for sleeping. The story led to French documentary films as well as Steven Spielberg's The Terminal, in which the character played by Tom Hanks is stuck in New York’s JFK Airport when a revolution envelops his home country. At the time, there were reports that Karimi Nasseri was paid $250,000 by the film studio, DreamWorks. "I have a better image now that the film is coming out," he told a reporter from Premiere magazine in 2004. "But my lifestyle is the same. I'm happy. This is my dream world."

(More obituary stories.)

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