Licence to thrill awaits a new 007: Timothy Dalton is giving up the role of James Bond. Glenda Cooper reports

HE MUST be virile, rugged - not pretty - athletic and have a very good body, according to Honor Blackman.

The search is on for the new James Bond after Timothy Dalton announced yesterday that he would not be playing 007 again. Bookmakers are already laying odds on the likely candidates.

Miss Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, the 1964 Bond film, also said it was imperative the super-agent should be a good actor with a dry and quizzical sense of humour.

She had thoroughly enjoyed playing a Bond girl opposite Sean Connery: 'It was very interesting and lovely to work with Sean. Really, there is no such thing as a James Bond girl. Most of them were sex objects - I wasn't, I had a job to do and only slept with Bond at the end because I wanted to.' She did express some doubts about such characters, however: 'I really wish they didn't continue with Bond girls because it is not the most admirable part of James's character.'

Mr Dalton's departure leaves the way clear for a British actor to take over in the 17th Bond film made by Cubby Broccoli. A spokeswoman for Eon Productions said that a hunt would be under way in Britain and America. 'I am sure a British actor would be preferred for the character,' she said. 'It would be a wonderful chance.'

William Hill, the bookmakers, have voted Pierce Brosnan, erstwhile star of Remington Steele, the television series, as the favourite at 2-1. Close behind are Ralph Fiennes, last seen in Schindler's List, and Hugh Grant from Remains of the Day, both on 4-1. Daniel Day-Lewis, despite his Oscars, is only managing 7-1. Rank outsiders include the unlikely Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rowan Atkinson, all at 50-1.

Graham Rye, the president of the James Bond Fan Club and Archives, had even more exact instructions than Miss Blackman for the casting directors of the new Bond: 'He must be a British actor, six foot to six foot two inches, tall, dark, with a deep voice and a sense of humour to bring to the role.'

Mr Rye, whose club has 2,500 members in 42 countries, favours Mr Brosnan. But he said: 'It is a great shame Dalton will not be doing a third film. Both Sean Connery and Roger Moore only got into the swing of it in their third films.'

(Photographs omitted)