An Iranian man stuck for 18 years in a Paris airport, inspiring a Steven Spielberg film with Tom Hanks, died in the terminal building on Saturday, an airport official said.
Mehran Karimi Nasseri died of natural causes shortly before noon on Saturday in terminal 2F of Charles de Gaulle airport outside the French capital, the official told AFP.
Originally caught in an immigration trap – unable to enter France and with nowhere to go – he became dependent on his unusual place of residence and increasingly a national and international cause celebrated.
His name was “Sir Alfred”, and a small section of airport flooring and plastic benching became his domain.
Karimi Nasseri’s peculiar story caught the eye of Hollywood director Spielberg, inspiring the 2004 film “The Terminal,” which starred Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Hanks played a man who finds himself trapped at JFK airport in New York when his home country collapses in revolution.
After spending most of the money he received for the film, Karimi Nasseri returned to the airport a few weeks ago, the official said.
Several thousand euros (dollars) were found on him.
Born in 1945 in Masjed Soleiman, in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, Karimi Nasseri took up residence at the airport in November 1988 after flying from Iran to London, Berlin and Amsterdam in a bid to reunite with his mother.
He had been expelled from all the other countries he had landed in because he was unable to produce the correct papers.
At Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, an informal support network has formed around him, providing food and medical aid as well as books and a radio.
In 1999, he obtained refugee status and the right to stay in France.
“I don’t really know what I want to do, stay in Roissy or leave,” he said after obtaining the right to live in France. “I have papers, I can stay here, I think I should study all the options carefully before making a decision.”
He didn’t leave then.
“He no longer wants to leave the airport,” said his lawyer Christian Bourguet at the time. “He is afraid to go there.