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<i>The Terminal</i> Tells Real-Life Story of International Visitor Trapped at Airport - 2004-06-25

Oscar-winner Tom Hanks stars as an international visitor trapped by circumstances at New York's JFK airport in an uplifting and romantic film directed by Steven Spielberg.

Viktor Navorski arrives at The Terminal for a holiday in New York. But he finds his plans blocked by fast-changing geopolitics and slow-moving bureaucracy.

A man without a country, with practically no knowledge of English or America, Viktor has no choice but to take up residence in The Terminal.

"The film is about a completely innocent man who has done nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, for most of his life he has done everything right," says director Steven Spielberg. He says Viktor's dilemma and the people who help him along the way provide a showcase for what the filmmaker considers a too often overlooked fact of American life: its international flavor.

"I was very careful to try to create the great 'melting pot,' which is how America began. It hasn't really been in evidence in this country for many, many decades; but right under our noses the melting pot happens every day in every single international airport here in this country," he explains, "where different languages are spoken, different faiths, different cultures, different kinds of people: so if you really want to see the world, you don't have to go any farther than your local terminal."

"I think The Terminal represents every big city in the world. Lots of people from different places and not everyone wants to be there," says Diego Luna, who plays one of the airport workers who become Viktor's adopted family; and the Mexican-born actor finds a global metaphor in the story and its setting.

"Either you're going somewhere or you're coming from somewhere, but you don't want to stay there," he says. "Suddenly this guy has to stay there. It's a lesson because he finds joy and happiness inside. It's true: you can be happy wherever you are, even in The Terminal If you're willing to find joy in life, you can find it inside. You can find friends and love everywhere."

While he tries to play cupid for Luna's character, hapless Viktor finds love himself in the lovely form of Catherine Zeta-Jones as flight attendant Amelia Warren.

"The vulnerability of the character was one of things that really attracted me to the movie as well as working with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks," she says. " I've never really had the chance on film to be a woman who really wears her heart on her sleeve and is just not as pulled together as you first think she could be. Steven was really open and said 'just let it go and show that vulnerability.' I know that I have it, but have never really had the chance to put on screen."

Director Spielberg describes The Terminal as 'the most romantic film' he's ever made; but he admits it can be seen as a fable and star Tom Hanks agrees.

"In some ways I guess you could almost call it fanciful only in that real life works out this way. Nothing magic happens. No special effects go down. No crime is solved. No suitcase full of money exchanges hands," he says. "What happens is you see real people living in a real world and they come out with a benevolent understanding of the way the world can work."

The multicultural cast of The Terminal includes Dominican-born Zoƫ Saldana, Indian performer Kumar Pullana and native New Yorker Stanley Tucci. Because of security concerns, the film could not be made at a real airport; so a mock-up terminal the size of two football fields was built for it inside an unused airplane hangar.