The Man Behind Tom Hanks’s Best Movie Has Died

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who served as the inspiration for the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg movie The Terminal, has passed away.

By Ross Tyson | Published

The man that inspired Tom Hanks’ film The Terminal, Mehran Karimi Nasseri, has passed away in the place that made him famous. The Iranian man, who lived in the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France for eighteen years, reportedly collapsed from a heart attack in the same terminal on November 12th. He was believed to be between seventy-five and eighty years old, per Deadline.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri

While Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg told a story inspired by his story, Nessari’s reality was quite far from the depiction in the film. After a series of incidents that left him stranded at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Nessari was deemed legally allowed to remain in France, but also not legally allowed to leave the airport. This state of geo-political limbo continued for years due to a combination of Nessari’s own actions and the terribly inconvenient systems of communication at the time.

Though it’s never been confirmed by anyone involved in the production, there were reports that Nasseri had been approached with payment by the production for his inspiration on The Terminal. While the Tom Hanks film hit theaters in 2004, Nessari wasn’t allowed to leave the airport until 2006. Even then, he was shuffled from shelter to shelter throughout France, never truly finding a home to settle into.

Tom Hanks in The Terminal

Considering the importance of Charles de Gaulle’s Terminal 2F had in Nasseri’s life, not many were surprised that the man had returned there in the last few months of his life. According to staff and regulars around the airport, he came in around September of 2022, reportedly homeless at the time. Despite being the subject of a revered Tom Hanks film, he died penniless, surrounded by transient souls and checked bags.

While it’s not known at the moment whether he had any blood relatives, Nasseri was spoken of fondly by the airport staff. While he certainly wasn’t an anticipated long-term guest, he was a mainstay of the airport’s community and many flight crew and building staff made sure he was always looked after. It’s unknown whether he was able to see the Tom Hanks movie that he inspired, but he certainly knew and took joy in showing people the poster.

While Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg took liberties with Nasseri’s story, changing him from Iranian to Eastern European and changing his circumstance, it certainly did truthfully translate the heart and resiliency shown by the man during his 18-year odyssey. Through various turmoil and turnarounds, Nessari never lost his heart and joy. He would frequently interact with airport guests, bringing cheer and on more than one occasion confusion to travelers.

Nessari’s passing has brought an outpouring of love from a community more easily connected now than it ever could have been when his situation began. His story is more widely known thanks to the efforts of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, many took inspiration from the kindness he showed despite his situation. Though an unlikely character in the most unlikely of circumstances, Terminal 2F’s longest resident is still an example of human kindness.

With The Terminal long behind him, Tom Hanks was most recently seen in the Baz Luhrman biopic Elvis and will play the title character in A Man Called Otto later this year.