British actress DAME Judi Dench dismisses soul-searching theatre techniques, because she believes acting is about exploring a character as opposed to drawing out qualities from within.

Dench is convinced the character should be more important than the actor but admits her feelings are nothing in comparison to those held by her Ladies in Lavender co-star DAME MAGGIE SMITH - who brands such techniques as akin to "w**king".

She says, "Acting is about the exploration of character rather than simply a projection of self.

"I was in New York with Maggie Smith recently, promoting a film, and we were asked about the Sanford Meisner Method school of acting which is based on ruthless self-exploration.

"Maggie, in her unique way, said, 'Oh, we have that in England, too. We call it w**king."