Who Is Mehran Karimi Nasseri? The Man Who Inspired Steven Spielberg’s Hit "The Terminal."

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the exiled Iranian who inspired Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal, died at the Paris airport on November 13, 2022.
Who Is Mehran Karimi Nasseri? The Man Who Inspired Steven Spielberg’s Hit “The Terminal”
Who Is Mehran Karimi Nasseri? The Man Who Inspired Steven Spielberg’s Hit “The Terminal”

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the exiled Iranian, who lived for 18 years at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, passed away on Nov 13, 2022.

According to a representative of the Paris airport authorities, Nasseri, aged 76, died after a heart attack in Terminal 2F of the airport.

Nasseri was the inspiration behind American director and producer, Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film, The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. 

Who Was Mehran Karimi Nasseri?

Mehran Karimi Nasseri was born in 1945 to an Iranian father and a British mother in Soleiman, Iran, which was then governed by the British. In 1974, he left Iran to attend a college in England.

He said that upon his return to Iran, he was deported without a passport and imprisoned for engaging in protests against the government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

After being exiled from his country, he sought political refuge in a number of European nations but was denied every time. 

He eventually received refugee certifications from the UN organization for refugees in Belgium. However, he claimed that his briefcase, where he kept his refugee certificates, was lost at a train station in Paris.

Without proper documentation, he was denied entry into the UK and was sent back to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris as he was traveling from there. 

Nowhere to go, Nasseri started living at Terminal 1 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris in 1988. 

In the 1990s, the French government insisted that he was an illegal immigrant staying on French land, but they were unable to deport him since no nation would take him.

Since then, Nasseri made the Paris airport his home.

In 1999, he was given permission to leave the airport and travel anywhere in Europe he pleased. 

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Apparently, he was unwilling to leave and decided to stay at the airport after declaring himself stateless. 

He took a shower in staff restrooms and slept off on a red plastic seat amid boxes of newspapers and magazines. He wrote in his diary, read publications, researched economics, and observed passing people while also studying them. 

He adopted the alias Sir Alfred, given to him by the airport staff. 

People who knew Nasseri throughout his time living at the airport claimed that his years spent in the airport had a negative impact on his mental health. He was admitted to the hospital in 2006 and was given a shelter assignment in Paris.

However, Nasseri returned to live at Charles de Gaulle just weeks before he passed away.

Nasseri’s bizarre circumstances became the source of inspiration for many films and documentaries. 

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According to New York Times, the pioneer of modern Hollywood cinema, Steven Spielberg purchased the rights to his life for over  $250,000.

Spielberg’s blockbuster, The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones, was loosely based on Nasseri’s life following his exile and residence at the Paris airport.


Other cinematic pieces inspired by Nasseri’s life include French filmmaker Philippe Lioret’s, Lost in Transit, British composer Jonathan Dove’s opera, Flight, Hamid Rahmanian and Melissa Hibbard’s documentary, Sir Alfred of Charles de Gaulle Airport, Glen Luchford and Paul Berczeller’s mockumentary, Here to Where, and several others. 

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Nasseri wrote an autobiography titled, The Terminal Man, which was published in 2004. Although Mehran Karimi Nasseri had died, his life story and tragedy will live on through his autobiography and the cinematic pieces inspired by him. 

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