An Iranian exile who was stuck for more than a decade at a French airport, inspiring a Steven Spielberg movie, has died of natural causes just weeks after returning to the aviation hub that he long called home, Agence France-Presse has reported.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who claimed to have left Iran in 1977, passed away on Saturday in Terminal 2F of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, the news agency cited an airport official as saying. He was 77 years old.
Nasseri, who has been given refugee status in Belgium, traveled around Europe in November 1988 in a failed effort to locate his mother. Lacking a visa, he was refused entry to the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands before arriving at the Paris airport, where he was detained and released into the Terminal 1 building.
He remained there with just his suitcase, living off of food given to him by airport employees and calling himself “Sir Alfred.” A French court ruled in 1992 that Nasseri couldn’t be forcibly expelled from the airport, but nor could he be allowed entry to the country. He was granted residency as a refugee in 1999, but by then, he no longer wanted to leave the airport.
Nasseri’s story later came to the attention of Spielberg, who offered him $250,000 for rights to make it into a movie. The 2004 film, ‘The Terminal,’ starred Tom Hanks as an Eastern European man who got stuck at a US airport after he was denied entry and his own country was taken over in a coup.
That same year, Nasseri’s autobiography – co-written by UK author Andrew Dorkin – was released. He finally left the airport in 2006, when he was hospitalized. He returned a few weeks ago, after spending most of his Hollywood money, the airport official told AFP. Several thousand euros were found in his possession.