Tom Hanks shoots video for former conjoined Cork twins

Oscar winner sent special Toy Story video to Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf

Hollywood star Tom Hanks has recorded a special Toy Story themed message for Irish twin boys Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, who were born conjoined in December 2009 before being successfully separated in 2010. Video: Tom Hanks/Miceal O'Hurley

Hollywood actor and two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks has shot a special Toy Story video for twin boys Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, who were born conjoined in December 2009 before being successfully separated the following year.

The twins, who are from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork have endured gruelling surgeries and still face ongoing health challenges.

Youghal ice-cream parlour owner Miceal O'Hurley, who worked in the US Congress and has links in the film industry, contacted Hanks through his representatives informing him of the boys' love of Toy Story.

Former conjoined twins Hussein (left) and Hassan Benhaffaf, at the launch of an Irish Wheelchair Association fundraising campaign in 2014. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

He said he was incredibly touched when the actor shot a short Toy Story video for the youngsters at his home. In it he matched the Toy Story theme song You’ve Got a Friend in Me to his own actions and choreography.

A still from the Tom Hanks video. Photograph: YouTube
A still from the Tom Hanks video. Photograph: YouTube

“We got the video at 3am and my wife Oksana and I sat up in bed in tears. The thoughtfulness. The kindness. The generosity of spirit of his act was extraordinary,” he said.

“I think what I love about Tom Hanks is that if he wasn’t a mega star, and he was the local guy in the hardware store, he would still go out of his way to be a decent person.

“Tom wanted the boys to know that he admires them and wants to be their friend.”

He added: “He has got millions of fans. To think that he recognised two little Irish fans enough to write, direct and produce a little film just for them. They will always have this.

“Next time the boys are feeling low or stuck in a hospital bed they can flip on a video and be reminded that they are special. This is about lifting their spirits.”

Hanks collects typewriters and included in the gift for the boys was a hand-typed letter with his signature at the end. In the letter the Oscar winner joked that he “looks a bit odd” these days. He asked the youngsters not to “be scared” by his appearance in the video.

Mr O'Hurley says he and his wife are inspired by the resilience of the nine year olds and the dedication of their parents, Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf, who have worked extraordinarily hard to give them every opportunity in life.

“What people don’t realise is the boys' Dad, who was an extraordinarily talented chef, had to leave his job to care for the family. He and the boys Mom, Angie, are full time carers and they also have two other children.

“They go to London for surgeries. Some things are covered but the out-of-pocket expenses aren’t. On any given trip it costs them €2,000 to €3,000 out of pocket that they don’t get reimbursed. This family face adversity that people don’t even realise.”

Meanwhile their twin boys play basketball, climb indoor walls at play centres and are spirited, warm children who light up a room, he said.

“I am proud to know the boys and to call them my friends. They are an extraordinary family. I think we should do something more for these boys.”

The children underwent a 14-hour operation to separate them at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London in April 2010. The theatre team was led by Irish-born surgeon, Dr Edward Kiely.

Conjoined twins are identical twins whose bodies are joined in utero. A rare phenomenon, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 200,000 births. in new window ]