The movie was inspired by the story of Merhan Nasseri, an Iranian refugee. In 1988, he landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport near Paris, after being denied entry into England, because his passport and United Nations refugee certificate had been stolen. French authorities wouldn't let him leave the airport. He remained in Terminal One, a stateless person with nowhere else to go. He has since been granted permission to either enter France or return to Iran. He chooses to continue to live in the terminal and tell his story to those who will listen. Reportedly, his mental health has deteriorated over the years. When given the opportunity to live in France, he refused because the documents did not name him as "Sir Alfred", and he claims to have forgotten his native Persian. Reportedly, he left the terminal in August 2006 to be hospitalized for an unspecified illness. DreamWorks reportedly paid him $250,000 for the use of his biography.
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The airport set built for the film was based on Düsseldorf International Airport. The set was a near-full-size replica built in a former hangar, with three working sets of escalators, and populated by many popular stores (e.g. Burger King, Mrs. Fields, W.H. Smith). Some of these brands were recruited by DreamWorks, while others approached the studio when word of the production got out. Many of the stores and restaurants were built by the construction crews that built the actual mall and airport stores for the respective companies, and some had fully-functioning equipment, such as ovens and cash registers. However, the inclusion of a brand on the set was not a guarantee of inclusion in the film; DreamWorks retained full control over editing, and some brands appear only briefly or not at all.
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The note on the photocopy of the hand attached to the sign "All Gates" says "FREE THE GOAT."
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In a deleted scene, Navorski gets help using a phone card and says, "Home phone, home phone!" Steven Spielberg cut it because he didn't want comparisons to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and the famous lines "Phone home."
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Originally, Viktor was going to arrive from Slovenia. It was changed after the advice from Mark Rijavec, the former consul of Republic of Slovenia in the United States. Some people consider Slovenia to be the Switzerland of the Eastern Europe, and he said it wouldn't look credible if a civil war were to start in one of the new members of the European Union.
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Although Viktor comes from the fictional country of Krakozhia, the language he speaks in the movie is Bulgarian. The written material shown (the Fodor's guide and the magazine page with the jazz greats) is in bad Russian. The label on the Planters peanuts can is neither in Bulgarian nor in Russian. Viktor's driving license is issued in Homel, Republic of Belarus, and has a woman's name on it (written in Cyrillic) - Gulnara Gulina. It was a real license provided by a real Gulnara Gulina, a woman from Belarus who was working in American movie industry, although the license, issued in 1995, was already invalid at the time of filming. The filmmakers just added Viktor Navorski's name in English and his photo.
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In the scene where Viktor and other people sing the Krakozhian national anthem, they sing the anthem of Albania in "gibberish" words.
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Tom Hanks's father-in-law is of Bulgarian origin. His character Viktor Navorski speaks Bulgarian.
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Officer Torres goes to Star Trek conventions dressed as Yeoman Rand. Zoe Saldana later played Uhura in "Star Trek (2009)" and its sequels.
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After he talks to Amelia about what Napoléon Bonaparte gave to Josephine after conquering Bavaria, Viktor puts his right hand in his jacket - a pose famously used by Napoleon in several portraits.
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The recreated airport took 16 weeks to build, contained over 112,000 square feet of glass, 75,000 square feet of floor space (large enough to hold 600 extras) and was fitted with 2,000 miniature lights. It also included working escalators and real food courts.
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Selected as the opening film of the 2004 Venice Film Festival.
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In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Steven Spielberg said that "The Terminal" was a slight homage to Jacques Tati's Playtime (1967) and the works of Frank Capra with his "honest sentiment."
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Milodragovic is Russian and was played by Russian actor Valeriy Nikolaev but his surname is South Slavic (e.g. Serbian or Slovenian). In the Russian dubbed version of the film, Milodragovic spoke Bulgarian, not Russian, and introduced himself as a Bulgarian, although the surname is hardly Bulgarian. Taxi driver Goran from Albania, who appears at the end of the film, also has a South Slavic name.
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When Viktor crosses himself, he crosses himself in the Eastern Orthodox Christian style (three fingers, ending right to left). Many Eastern European nations are Eastern Orthodox and Tom Hanks is himself a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy due to his Greek Orthodox wife Rita Wilson.
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In the Borders bookstore at the airport, the book Viktor is holding is Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"
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Viktor Navorski reads a note to Thurman indicating that he intended to stay at the "Ramada Inn, 161 Lexington". In real life, 161 Lexington Avenue, New York was indeed home to the Ramada New York/Eastside Hotel at the time of The Terminal's filming. Its history stretches back 110 years to its 1914 debut as The Hotel Rutledge for Women, and it retained a women-only policy until the 1930s. It subsequently bore both Quality Inn and Ramada branding. Since April 2017, long-time owner Apple Core Hotels has instead made the property an in-house brand, renaming it The Hotel @ New York City.
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When Amelia does her makeup at the table while sitting with Viktor, she pulls out an Elizabeth Arden compact. Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played Amelia, is a spokeswoman for Elizabeth Arden cosmetics.
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After the Inspectors from Immigration, Customs, and Agriculture combined to become Customs and Border Protection (CBP), it took time before the new CBP Officer received the uniform depicted in this movie. At the time of filming, many CBP Officers had not yet been issued the new uniform.
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Tony Randall appears, uncredited, in the "I Love New York" television advertisement in the movie.
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A majority (if not all) of the flights on the departure board were flights operated by members of the Star Alliance. United Airlines is a founding partner of the Star Alliance.
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Bernie Mac was considered for a role, but had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict.
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Steven Spielberg's first movie to utilize a Digital Intermediate.
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The character Tom Hanks plays has bathed in the bathroom sinks all the time he was forced to stay at the airport. The design on the towel he wore was of Ayrton Senna who was killed in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
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Zoe Saldana's character says she goes to conventions dressed as Yeoman Rand from Star Trek, she later stars as Nyota Uhura in the reboot of the Star Trek franchise.
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The book Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) buys in Borders is 'Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life' by Alan Schom, a historian specialising in French history and Pulitzer Prime nominated for his work on Napoleon. In 'The Terminal' Amelia puts forward a revisionist theory about Napoleon's death. Alan Schom's book was controversial at the time of release as it put forward a highly revisionist view of Napoleon: it revealed 'Napoleon's destructive personality to friends and subjected country, his love of conquest, subjugation and power. He literally held every country in Western and central Europe captive, ensured by the presence of French bayonets, their taxes going to Paris. Napoleon's attempt to exclude England from Europe resulted in the destruction of that contient's commerce and economy, resulting in great hardship. A paranoid egotist, everything he did was for himself. His wars resulted in the deaths of one million Frenchmen--excluding those his enemies. Many tens of thousands of women and girls were raped by his troops as they marched through Europe over a period of 15 years. Napoleon was in the final analysis, a terrorist, the worst in European history until the arrival of Hitler and Stalin'
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Sandrine Kwan and Alyshia Ochse's debut.
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Early in the movie, Tom Hanks asks where he can buy Nikes. Tom Hanks also famously wore Nikes as he ran back and forth across the country in Forrest Gump.
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Kumar Pallana, who plays the janitor Gupta, juggles some hoops and plates while Viktor and Amelia have dinner. He was in fact a real juggler and traveled the world when he was a young man, performing his juggling and balancing act.
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The film was shot with two endings. The original version of the film, previewed in Orange, California on May 26, 2004, had the other ending, in which Catherine Zeta-Jones's character Amelia goes into Manhattan with Viktor. The changes to the film caused the start date of Steven Spielberg's next film Munich (2005) to be pushed back several weeks, which meant that Ben Kingsley could no longer appear in it, due to his commitment to appear in Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist (2005).
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When Viktor is about to be forced onto the plane back home, Dixon whistles the melody to "For All We Know (We May Never Meet Again)" while watching the security camera screens.
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The movie is about Viktor getting the last remaining signature from the jazz artist. In the end credits, the actors, directors, etc. sign their names.
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Benny Golson: The saxophone player at the New York City hotel during the last few scenes.
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Viktor (Hanks) is observed by tradesmen whilst remodeling a restroom wall, the lead tradesman is wearing a 'Little Italy' FDNY Engine 55 shirt - Actor Steve Buscemi was a crew member on Engine 55, which he silently returned to after 9/11 to search for lost FDNY personnel and civilian casualties.
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