LONDON -- Dominic West would like to be the next James Bond. But he's worried you think of him as a cad.

The British star of "The Affair" and "The Wire" nurtures a dream of playing 007, but in the meantime he's relishing the chance to be a smooth-talking sexual schemer onstage in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses."

The Josie Rourke-directed production at London's Donmar Warehouse will be broadcast live in British and U.S. movie theatres Thursday, with repeat screenings around the world over the coming weeks.

"I certainly seem to take a lot of parts playing cads," West said before a recent evening performance.

In Christopher Hampton's drama of sexual intrigue among 18th-century French aristocrats, West plays Le Vicomte de Valmont, who conspires with former lover the Marquise de Merteuil (a compelling, calculating Janet McTeer) to seduce a virtuous woman and ruin a chaste teenager -- just for the fun of it.

Witty, flamboyant, cruel and ultimately tragic, Valmont can be a career-defining character. The role is strongly associated with the late Alan Rickman, who starred in the original 1980s stage production, and John Malkovich in the 1988 film "Dangerous Liaisons."

West concedes with a laugh that Valmont is an "evil bastard." He has qualities in common with many of West's characters, including wayward Baltimore police detective Jimmy McNulty in HBO's "The Wire" and adulterous writer Noah Solloway in Showtime's "The Affair," for which he won a Golden Globe nomination. West also won a British Academy television award for playing genuine evil, real-life serial killer Fred West in the miniseries "Appropriate Adult."

West, whose gently patrician accent is a reminder that he attended Eton College, Britain's most elite private school, insists he's "completely wholesome and nice" in real life. But there is a seductively wicked cast to his features, and his deep laugh, that fans find irresistible.

"I always thought Noah, my character in 'The Affair,' was a hero. But he turned out to be a bit of a cad as well," West said. "I think probably I influenced the writers' direction."

He says he was slightly wary about taking on "Liaisons," "partly because of how well it had been done before, but also because it did feel a little obvious in a way."

But while he says he's "longing to play a nice hero," he knows the devil gets all the good lines.

"They're much more interesting parts, the cads. It's very difficult to play a good man and make him interesting. You've got to be Jimmy Stewart or Tom Hanks.

"It's much easier and more fun to make bad men interesting."

Hampton's play has become a modern classic, and its source, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' 1782 novel, also remains uncannily timely after almost 250 years. West says that's because the tale expertly dissects "male pride and the delusions of male pride, and sexual pride."

"It deals with issues that never age," he said. "It's not just about stupid aristocrats who all lost their heads. It's about something we all can relate to."

West says his career goal is to balance stage, film and TV work, doing "all three in short bursts." A third season of "The Affair" looks likely in 2016. But like many British leading men, he's drawn to the idea of Bond.

West auditioned for the role before Daniel Craig was cast as 007 a decade ago. With speculation rife that Craig will do one more film at most, the rumour mill is whirling again.

"I'd love to be James Bond," West said. "But at the moment I'm a 40-1 outsider."

He worries that, at 46, he's too old to be cast.

"My friend texted me the other day and said, 'You've got to go for Bond, you'll be the oldest ever!' I said, 'What about Roger Moore?' He said, the oldest starting -- Roger Moore started younger."