August 25, 1986 12:00 PM

Like a lot of James Bond adventures, the climax was played out in a secret location while the world directed its attention elsewhere. As speculation swirled that Pierce Brosnan would replace Roger Moore as the next James Bond, a seldom-mentioned substitute was taking a screen test in London. On August 6 Timothy Dalton received his license to thrill. Next month the well-respected but low-profile actor starts shooting The Living Daylights, the new Bond film. Joked Sean Connery, “Tim Dalton is a very good choice. He’s the right age—about 38, just like me.”

Actually, he’s been reported as 41, and apart from a dimpled chin, Dalton’s credentials might make Bond blanch. He’s Welsh, not English. Instead of hopping from bed to bod, he has maintained a stormy decade-long relationship with actress-activist Vanessa Redgrave, 49, who is nobody’s notion of Pussy Galore. In fact, Dalton won the role after impressing producer Cubby Broccoli with his portrayal of Petruchio opposite Redgrave’s Kate in a recent production of The Taming of the Shrew on the London stage. Still, Dalton is no stranger to 007. Broccoli had talked with him six years ago, when Moore threatened to relinquish the role. After Moore relented, Dalton’s name was filed for the future.

Throughout his career, Dalton has mixed crass with class. Though his stage credits include Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Romeo and Juliet and Love’s Labour’s Lost, his screen appearances have been mostly B-list: a parade of historical dramas from Mary Queen of Scots to The Doctor and the Devils. Dalton has embraced American TV too. He co-starred in Joan Collins’ Sins, and while filming Mistral’s Daughter, briefly squired around Stefanie Powers. Currently, he is trading Shrew with Redgrave for Brenda Starr with Brooke Shields: Dalton is playing the male lead in the Shields movie, shooting in Florida and Puerto Rico.

When the casting announcement was finally made, Brosnan was back in England to finish another film. “It just wasn’t meant to be,” he told a London newspaper. “Certain things in life are meant to happen—this obviously wasn’t one of them.” Dalton, meanwhile, is intent on proving himself Brosnan’s equal. When PEOPLE asked for an interview, his studio representative insisted on a four-page cover story—”like you gave Pierce Brosnan.” PEOPLE declined.

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