By Margaret Lyons
Updated July 23, 2009 at 10:05 PM EDT
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Perennial “Hey, It’s That Guy” John Michael Higgins played David Letterman in The Late Shift 13 years ago, and he said in an interview this week that Letterman “didn’t make it easy for [him] — or for anyone doing that project.”

Back then, Higgins was a struggling actor, who desperately needed the money. “I may be able to turn it down now, but I couldn’t at the time. It would just be completely crazy and irresponsible.” (The made-for-TV movie was nominated for several Emmys in 1996, and Kathy Bates won a Golden Globe for her performance.)

The high-profile role came with some strings, though: “There was a lot of press, there was a lot of interviews and comparing me. And [Letterman] saying things about me on his television program. It was difficult. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Higgins says. “There was a famous incident where he invited me to the show and I got bumped.” My, my.

Let’s fire up the old EW time machine and see what was cookin’ back then….

In December 1995, our own Ken Tucker sat down with Letterman, soon after Jay Leno started regularly winning the ratings race.

Shortly before the film aired in 1996, EW took another look at the production.

And finally, when the movie did air, we gave it a B-. Quoth Ken Tucker at the time, “Letterman is impersonated by John Michael Higgins in a one-man orgy of squints, scowls, and growls — it’s a Dave who seems to have lice in his eyebrows and doesn’t know how to scratch.”

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