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Is The Terminal Based On A True Story?

Traveling by air mostly consists of waiting. There's waiting in line at the check-in counters and TSA security points, which is followed by waiting at the gate until boarding begins. Then there's waiting in line as your zone boards the plane. There's waiting for the seatbelt light to go out so you can safely move about the cabin, which then leads to waiting for the lavatory, which usually means waiting for the snack cart to get out of the way. Finally, there's the wait to deplane that precedes rushing to baggage claim where you wait for your luggage to make its way around the carousel.

Worse yet is the waiting that comes from delayed and canceled flights. Anyone who's spent a night on a cold, hard airport floor with a carry-on for a pillow knows those uncomfortable hours can feel like an eternity. For most, though, the waiting does eventually come to an end. Unless you're Tom Hanks' character in 2004's "The Terminal," a movie about a man who is forced to live in an airport. While it's easy to think the film is a horror, it's actually loosely based on a true story.

The Terminal was inspired by the real story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri

Directed by Steven Spielberg, "The Terminal" is based on Mehran Karimi Nasseri's autobiography "The Terminal Man." According to Nasseri, he was forced to leave his native Iran in 1977 as punishment for protesting against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former and last Shah of Iran, while Nasseri was a student in England. After his expulsion from Iran, Nasseri lived in Belgium and was granted refugee status. For several years, Nasseri searched for a country in which to establish permanent residency (via History of Yesterday).

In 1988, Nasseri set off for England, the European nation with which he was most familiar given his time as a student there. According to Nasseri, he lost his travel documents during a layover in France's Charles de Gaulle International Airport. Without his paperwork, Nasseri was denied entry into England, which left him stuck at Charles de Gaulle — where he waited for 18 years, never setting foot outside until illness required him to be hospitalized (via All That's Interesting).

Over the course of his nearly two decades in Terminal 1, Nasseri befriended some airport workers, worked odd jobs within the airport, bathed in the airport's bathrooms, and ate most of his meals at the airport's McDonald's. Nasseri's stay might have gone on even longer if not for a human rights lawyer, Christian Bourguet, who worked to untangle all of the international bureaucratic red tape that kept Nasseri stranded. In the end, Nasseri was given permission to leave the airport and enter a homeless shelter in Paris, where he has resided since 2008 (via H2G2).