Carey Mulligan flunked her British driver’s test five separate times…???

55th New York Film Festival - 'Mudbound' Premiere

I took my first driver’s license test when I was 16 years old. I actually studied for it, because in my state, you have to take a written test as well as a physical driving test. I passed both on the first try and nowadays, whenever I renew my license, the DMV just makes me take, like, a 60-second vision test (“can you see this sign?” “yes” “okay here’s your license”). I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to get a driver’s license in America, but it’s not easy-peasy. I guess to British people seeking American driver’s licenses, it is easy though? How did I not know this? Apparently, driver’s license tests are much harder in the UK. So hard, in fact, that Carey Mulligan has flunked her British driver’s license test FIVE TIMES. How is that possible?!?!

Carey Mulligan has a “great desire” to put the pedal to the metal. When the actress appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! Tuesday to promote her new movie, Mudbound (out Nov. 17 on Netflix and in select theaters), she revealed she’s failed her driving test five times. “It’s way harder in England! Over there I failed. Here, it’s easy. I did it here—it was a piece of cake,” she said. “You literally drive around the block and they give you a license.”

Mulligan, who used to take the bus to acting auditions in L.A., said she was only able to drive for about six months before she moved “back to England,” where she “couldn’t drive anymore.” Regardless, Mulligan insisted, “I’m an excellent driver.”

“I don’t think you are,” Jimmy Kimmel said. “Maybe average, but even then, I don’t think so.”

“It’s a pressure thing. I am an excellent driver,” she said. “Then I get in a test environment, someone has a clipboard, and my mind explodes. I cannot do anything and I make mistakes.” To prove her point, Mulligan recounted each of her failed attempts at becoming a licensed driver.

“Test No. 1, I’m 23. I’m filming this film called Never Let Me Go, and the director [Mark Romanek] is adamant that I have to drive a car. It has to be a manual car—no question. I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s hard. Can I not do [automatic]?’” she said. “‘No, it has to be a manual car, and you have five days to learn.’ I do my five-day intensive thing. I get to the end of the five days and I take the test, and I fail within 90 seconds of leaving the test center. I’m going up the hill, and I mess up the thing, and I stall and I start rolling back down the hill, and there’s a Range Rover behind me. The instructor freaks out and does the emergency brakes. I went, ‘OK, well that’s done.’ Then I get on set and they have an automatic car! I’m like, ‘Buddy!’ So, that was a wash.”

As time went on, Mulligan showed no signs of improvement. “Years later, I’m pregnant with my first child. I get quite far into the pregnancy and I think, ‘Oh, God, I must learn to drive now because I’m going to be a mother. This is irresponsible,’” she said. “I’m nine months pregnant, I book my test—and I fail. Then I book another, 10 days before I give birth, and I fail that as well.”

Two years later, during her second pregnancy, Mulligan had the same mentality. “I think, ‘I have two children; I should really get a driver’s license.’ So, I wait until I’m nine months pregnant and I take one test and I fail. And then it’s my fifth test. My husband [Marcus Mumford] comes to the test center. He’s got the bottle of champagne and he’s ready, and it’s the saddest thing he’s ever seen,” the 32-year-old actress said. “I hoist myself out of the car, crying, with this huge bump and my little sheet with this red cross on it. He sort of slowly puts the champagne away. All of them I knew [I failed], except the last one, where I really thought I’d nailed it. That was even worse. Like, if you know, it’s fine. But I was like, ‘This is it,’” Mulligan said. “And it wasn’t.”

[From E! News]

The only one I understand is trying and failing to drive a stick shift/manual. I learned how to drive a manual when I was a teenager but if you asked me to do it today, I would f–k it up (bigly). But how can you live into your 30s and not have a driver’s license, or fail the driver’s test five times? I can understand how you might live in a city with great public transport and not NEED to drive. But even if you’re a ride-or-die city dweller, you should still get a license and you should still be able to pass the test!!

Carey Mulligan during an appearance on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!'

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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51 Responses to “Carey Mulligan flunked her British driver’s test five separate times…???”

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  1. Mia4s says:

    “ But how can you live into your 30s and not have a driver’s license..”

    In London? Not that uncommon. During Sherlock they had to switch a scene where Watson was driving a car to have Sherlock do it because Martin Freeman can’t drive.

    I had a friend who failed a Canadian test five times. Then she passed on six and her parents bought her a car…😬

    • dodgy says:

      Yeah, in London if you’re going about on the tube and buses, the public transport is pretty accessible, and you can get around. Also, if nothing else, I know that Londoners just… walk everywhere.

    • retromancing says:


      I’m fast approaching 30 and do
      not know how to drive nor have any desire to learn. I grew up in the countryside (UK) but lived only a 10-mins walk from a train station – so it wasn’t necessary; I moved to Osaka, it was not necessary; I moved to London. It is not necessary.

      (NB. Obviously this is for my lifestyle, but I struggle to fathom in what world driving in London, especially the City, would be easier than public transport.)

      I feel as if people in countries (or counties, even) without reasonable public transit are — understandably — unable to quite understand how unnecessary learning to drive is in other areas of the world.

    • Jussayin says:

      It’s easier to use public transport in London than to drive. Even in plenty of other parts of the UK there are quite a few people who can’t drive.

      One thing I don’t get is how in the UK, if you pass your test in an automatic car (which is pretty rare as most drive manual), you’re not allowed to drive a manual/stick shift car but if you’re from the US and have never driven a manual car in your life, they’ll still let you hire one. Really doesn’t seem safe. Especially when you consider how aggressively people seem to drive in the UK by comparison to what I’ve experienced in the US.

    • raincoaster says:

      She’s also a famous multi-millionaire, so she can damn well afford cabs or even a houseboy/driver combo.

      • Fran says:

        I live in London, am 34 and have a child and can’t drive! It’s just never been a pressing enough issue for me to learn. I lice a few mi utes from a train station and there are lots of buses around.

  2. meeem says:

    My English boyfriend has failed 4 times and I always have to drive on vacations :(

  3. dodgy says:

    Well, in Britain, we do our driving tests privately (I think in America you do it through your high school system). Normally we do our tests on manual (or stick). You have the option of doing it on an automatic, iirc, but if you get an automatic licence, you can’t drive stick (from what I understand). So most people just go for the manual option automatically.

    Also, it depends on where you do your test. Some areas are known to be harder than others. My test took about twenty to thirty minutes, I think. I had to drive to speed, drive on back roads, was asked to do a few manoeuvres (three point turn, and reverse parking), as well as stopping and starting on a hill.

    I remember failing a test because I didn’t have my handbrake up at the traffic light (which, really?).

    So yeah, Ms Mulligan I know them feels. The amount of money I spent on my licence was no joke. Then after all of that, I don’t even drive! I just use my licence as ID.

    A friend of mine failed her test because she was driving 38 in a 30 mph zone. Soooo… yeah, I know them feels.

    • Jussayin says:

      I think the British and European driving tests are perhaps harder and more people fail simply because they’re mostly in manual cars. Stopping and moving off on a hill for example is no different to any other road in an automatic car but in a manual there is potential for an accident. There is just more to think about and more that can go wrong so the test is tougher to prevent accidents as much as possible.

      • dodgy says:

        Yeah, I think out of all the countries in Western Europe, Britain’s way of getting driver’s licence seems to be one of the most straightforward. I knew people who lived in Portugal, but decided to get their licences in England, because of the following: you didn’t have to attend x amount of hours of classes before you did the theory, nor have to do certified x amount of hours of classes before you did the practical. You just take your theory and you get your results in ten minutes. Then you are free to do the practical.

        I remember my driving instructor didn’t even ask to see my theory results until the day before the practical and he’s like, “Oh, you passed your theory, yeah?”

        Honestly, if the trains were cheaper in England, I wouldn’t drive at all (if I have to drive, it’s normally long distance, like from Birmingham to London or Birmingham to Leeds).

    • M4lificent says:

      They used to do it through high schools in the US until about 20? years ago. The insurance liability got too big — so now it’s mostly done privately.

      But it’s much easier to test in the US than in the UK — so say my many Brit friends and co-workers who have done both. And there are no requirements for testing with manual or automatic in the US — and no separate license based on the type of transmission. (At least not in any US state that I know of…)

      I had my first test when I was 16 on an ungodly hot and humid day, late in the afternoon. The DMV tester was very overweight, and sweating like crazy even with the car air conditioner on. I was his last test for the day, and I think he just wanted to go home. So all I had to do was drive four blocks through a quiet neighborhood and park uphill (which is no big deal with an automatic trans).

      • Winechampion says:

        I was in high school from 1991 to 1995, and there was no driver’s ed program at my school. You could take private driver’s ed classes to lower your insurance, but even then everyone just went to the DMV to take the test privately, on their own time.

        I flunked my driver’s test the first time (I was 19) because—get this—I got in an accident on the way to the test. The car was damaged, but my dad insisted I continue and take the test anyway. I was so rattled and upset from the accident that I flunked immediately. Very similar story to Carey’s—I almost wrecked and the tester freaked out. I didn’t get my license until I was 34. It’s not that weird. I’ve lived most of my life using public transit, and it’s great. Of course, I’ve always lived in cities with a good system. Even though I have my license, I still don’t own a car. The only people who think it’s weird and fixate on it are from the suburbs.

  4. Julianna says:

    Compared to Americans a ton of British people never drive, or they get their license and then proceed to rarely drive or only ever drive around their little village because getting on any halfway busy road, or god forbid a motorway, is terrifying to them.

    I found it crazy when I came there from Australia. I mean, it makes total sense in a major city, but you’ll get people who’ve lived in small towns with rubbish public transport all their lives who haven’t even considered getting their license (and not for financial reasons).

    ETA: Obviously the majority of British people drive, and drive totally capably, but coming from America or Australia it’s still kind of a culture shock.

  5. Ceire says:

    Hey now. Driving Tests vary massively from one country to another. I’m Irish and I’ve failed twice!

    Most of the people I’ve asked failed once or twice (at least!) too.

    • ichsi says:

      I’m Austrian and I know a lot of people who failed too, myself included. Aced the written test, completely screwed up the practical part. And like in the UK there’s a big difference between people who grow up in the countryside and those who live in the capital too. You don’t need a car in Vienna at all, so people don’t even bother to learn how to drive, whereas if you live in the countryside, you need to be able to drive.

  6. Rachiesparrow says:

    I failed my test twice (in the UK), and that was when it was easier. Now it’s super hard – you have a really tough written test as well as a practical test where you can fail for things like not looking in the rear view mirror or not managing a reverse park first time. It’s grim. I can totally understand how she’d fail five times.

    • Whoopsy Daisy says:

      It never occured to me that driving tests in other countries might be easier. In Croatia you have to listen to 30 hours of theory, then pass a theory test. Then 10 hours of first aid, then pass a first aid test. And then you have 35 hours of driving with an instructor and then you have a drivig test. And of course you can fail for not looking in the mirror and thigs like that.

  7. mynameispearl says:

    I failed my uk license test 6 times! the written test is done separately and includes a hazard perception simulator element. The practical is 45 minutes long and includes 2 manoeuvres, plus a 10 minute I dependent driving section (the instructor tells you make your way to a certain town and you have to follow the road signs without instruction). They’re changing it up again to include a section on using a GPS system. My sister who lives in NYC passed her American test on the first go, it was like 10 minutes long and 4 of those were in a car park. She recently drove at home in the UK on her US license and we were like yeah give us those keys back. and I don’t mean Americans are bad drivers, I’m sure far from it, but there is no way my sister would have passed a UK test with her current driving skills.

    • Artemis says:

      I was reading about this on Youtube on one of those videos where you can watch learner drivers’ lessons (I’m a learner driver myself in the UK). So many Americans were shocked that people here have on average 30-45 hours of driving lessons and they seem to think you only need 6!

      Being a good driver is not about getting the least amount of hours and getting on with it, it’s about experiencing different situations and knowing how to handle them and I doubt 6 hours gives you that experience. You have to know the basics when passing your practical and then you can confidently (hopefully!) grow as you rack up the hours without somebody guiding you. So many of them also had their parents teaching them but that’s a recipe for picking up bad habits imo. So many of my friends (in Belgium) found it frustrating as parents might have less patience and they went to a school for at least 20 hours (in Belgium you have to have had a minimum of 20hrs driving school to drive on your own, fail the test and you have to go again for 6hrs) and found it much better.

  8. A Croatian says:

    Well, in my country it’s hard, especially in the capital where the streets are insane sometimes. I have a license but I had to take extra classes, rounding it to 45. And I barely passed. And now I don’t drive because I don’t need to.

  9. Dina says:

    I’m 30, still dont have my full license (I’m in Canada)

  10. Mara says:

    Driving in London is kind of difficult as well. Not only is there the obscene amount of traffic of an ordinary big city but the city wasn’t built with a grid structure or any kind of organisation. It just grew with all these windy narrow roads that criss cross or go nowhere and make no sense – unless you know the area its kind of hard to intuitively work out how to get around which can knock the confidence.

  11. Renee says:

    I know plenty of people who have always lived in and around cities and have never gotten a license. If you have access to public transportation and can get a state ID there’s no need for it.

  12. IngeniousPrairieDog says:

    The British driving test is really hard. I know quite a few people who have failed 5 times or so. I passed on my second go. I love driving, and am pretty good but the bar is set really high. It’s a pretty expensive process too, so it’s not that rare not to learn.

    You choose whether to do automatic (in which case you can only drive an automatic) or manual (can drive both). I only know one person who can only drive automatic and have only ever driven automatic once so I think most people do manual.

    I’m not scared of motorways or driving abroad either! We do have quite a lot of motorways, I think most motorists are pretty confident.

  13. Loopy says:

    Oh good old East Africa,everyone pretty much buys a licence…alot of people do go to driving school but once they learn they just go and buy it,put a little extra cash for the person processing and done.

  14. Jellybean says:

    I drove an American around Cornwall once, the poor guy nearly had a heart attack. He thought the roads were too narrow and the speeds were ridiculously fast. I passed my test first time and I have never driven an automatic. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly good driver, but you have to do what you have to do and in UK being on the roads is quite demanding, so we need a tough driving test.

    • Artemis says:

      Yes, sometimes I’m driving on road and I feel I barely have space. When I have to give way to other cars in a one-way street it’s just a hellish experience cuz it’s just starting and stopping and the street isn’t even that long. And I don’t live in the busiest area but I could tell that driving in the UK is definitely a unique experience once I started learning. My instructor made me do 60mph on my 11th hour of learning and I didn’t realise that meant 96km/h as I don’t use miles. My friend pointed it out; I felt like I wasn’t really ready for those speeds yet and now I’m scared thinking I’m gonna have to do that on my own in a few months when I pass :(

    • AsIf says:

      I feel like in America most roads (especially in cities) are actually made for Cars to drive on them. in most of Europe they seem to be more fitted for small carriages. :D

  15. Vovicia says:

    It’s a big money making scam in the UK, in my opinion.

  16. Grumpier than thou says:

    Failed three times over here! Uk driving licence tests are hard (and the instructors are wankers). I’ve been driving for 17 years now but my poor sister has still not passed. My aunt failed seven times before she decided it probably wasn’t for her!!!

  17. Norman Bates' Mother says:

    I’m from Poland, where exams are among the hardest in the world and I passed at my 7th try, so you would probably deem me a total failure. I know at least 5 people who tried 13 times and one guy who passed at his 17th! try, as well as many people who failed multiple times at the writing test. In Poland exams are expensive and it would be unprofitable for the company who organises them to let people pass easily, so some people actually fly to UK to pass, even though the exams in UK are still not easy. Each of my exams lasted from 40 minutes to 1,5 h and I failed for ridiculous things like: not parking in the exact centre of a parking space (I didn’t cross any parking lines and all the doors could be opened easily) or letting a pedestrian cross the street when the examiner thought I had enough time to drive by without stopping.

  18. AsIf says:

    oh god, Americans have no idea, do they? I’m jealous.
    here, in Germany, getting your driver’s license is something you do in your own time, with no connection to school at all. you pay a “driving school” to teach you, mostly for a few months (depends on how often you can attend and how well you drive). you have a driving teacher (practical) and some classes (theoretical). you need a certain amount of hours driving in the rain, at night etc.. when you’re ready you take your theoretical test and soon after the practical. most people pass the theoretical, but not the practical, because already the smallest mistakes can lead to failure (my sister didn’t stop 15 seconds in front of a stop sign). there are some rumors that there is a certain quota of people who have to fail…
    and it’s incredibly expensive. you pay for the lessons, first aid courses, optician certificate, the tests (so if you fail you have to pay for the test again AND for additional classes) and the license itself. even if you pass right away it’s between 1400-2000 euros.
    when I was in America as an exchange student, I actually intended to get my license, because it’s soooooo much easier and less expensive, but it didn’t work out. I’m 23 now and don’t intend to get a license anytime soon. the public transport is really good and I’m a broke student.
    I imagine it’s similar in other countries in Europe.
    I understand why it’s unimaginable for Americans to not have a car (or fail your driving test) tho

    • Whoopsy Daisy says:

      I actually thought it’s like that everywhere. I didn’t think it’s that easy in America.

      • AsIf says:

        I can only talk about the procedures in Utah, but some friends of mine got theirs while I was there (so this is only from memory). if you’re under 18 you have to take driver’s ed (over 18 you don’t), which is usually done online and takes about 30 hours. then you have to take the written multiple choice test (I think you need about 80% to pass). I know people that took it high without studying and still passed. a relative/acquaintance/whatever can teach you driving, they testify that you drove a certain amount of hours. then a practical driving test.
        my high school offered all of that for 30 dollars.
        lots of my friends waited until being over 18 because they were too lazy for driver’s ed. I have not heard of Anyone failing to get their license first try. but let me tell you, I have never seen more beat up cars than in my high school’s parking lot and two of my friends totaled their cars in accidents shortly after getting their licenses.

    • dodgy says:


      you need a certain amount of hours driving in the rain, at night etc..

      In Britain, I don’t think we log hours like that, but half the time it’s raining over here, and dark at 15:00 hours come October, so that’s par for the course anyway. I do remember doing extra lessons after I got my driving licence, because I was told that it would bring down my insurance, so I did a few lessons re: driving on country roads, motorways, at night with traffic, et al. Only for it to be actually untrue – my insurance company didn’t recognise the post licence certificate at all. *sad face*

      However, I was glad to do it because it gave me more confidence driving, but still.

      With regards to first aid, I wish we did that here in order to get the licence, actually. I know we had first aid questions re: injuries, driver reactions, et al that we had to know but we never did do the process.

      Hah, at the opticians’ certificate. The first thing they do here in Britain is to make you stand you off at a distance and tell you to read the cars’ licence plate! (About three car lengths away). If you can’t read that, you’ve failed from the jump, and the test ends there.

      • AsIf says:

        haha, I can imagine that you don’t need the “rainy hours” over there.
        everything here is very specific, there’s also a certain amount of hours on the autobahn. I don’t think we have post license certificates in Germany, but I feel like British, snaky country roads deserve them…

        getting your first aid certificate is not hard, it just sucks you have to pay for it as well.

        that eye test actually sounds really efficient!
        here you have to bring a certificate because they put it on your driver’s license that you need glasses. so if you’re stopped by the police, they look at your license and if you’re not wearing glasses, even though you’re supposed to, you have to pay a fine.

  19. spidey says:

    I passed my UK driving test 51 years ago! As far as I can remember it was a driving test which took half to three quarters of an hour followed by a few questions on the highway code at the end of it. I passed first time, but live in fear of the government bringing in a law that makes people over a certain age have to take another test!

    Funnily enough, I never had lessons with a driving instructor but my father taught me to drive. He was not the most patient of people but we never had it cross word. Mind you I frightened the life out of him a few times. 😁

  20. aenflex says:

    Driving in the UK, and Europe in general, is way harder than in the States, relatively speaking. I would probably fail the UK test, and I’ve been driving for almost 25 years. Thankfully I don’t have to take it. But driving, (and parking), here is not like in the States. You’re basically screwed if you can’t reverse park or parallel park.
    I actually think British are better drivers for it.

  21. Bonbon says:

    I’m a Brit and when I moved to the US it was so easy to get a license in comparison. The test is way harder in the UK, lasts a little longer, and it’s on a stick shift too unless you choose to do it on an automatic and in that case you’re only licensed for automatics, which are thin on the ground over there. My US test was a breeze. I was sort of like “…that was it?” when it was over.

  22. brincalhona says:

    I think the tests should be rigorous because of the danger to yourself and others. It’s a privilege not a right to have control of a potentially lethal weapon. I wish eye tests were compulsory with the 10-year renewal as people who don’t wear glasses tend not to get their eyes tested.
    Can anyone from Switzerland or who’s lived there confirm that you have to go for a psychological test if you fail your test a certain number of times?

    • Pffffft says:

      I heard the same thing about having to see a shrink if you fail your driving test a certain number of times in Switzerland when I lived across the border.
      Fully grown woman here with 3 fully grown children. I don’t have a driving licence. As a child I was in several car accidents (my mother has very bad eyesight and should not drive, but does). I’m terminally absent-minded and my eyesight is pretty bad when I ‘m tired. I decided early on that there were enough bad drivers around and I wasn’t going to join their ranks. I live in places which have public transport and mostly work from home. Uber has made my life significantly easier, though.

  23. NicoleinSavannah,GA says:

    Don’t judge me! I got my license at 31! I did live in big cities in between and I honestly have horrible anxiety with the responsibility of driving.

    • NYGal says:

      Don’t feel bad I’m 41 and just got my license 2 weeks ago on the second attempt… nerves got me really bad. I live in update NY and have had access to public transportation or other means of getting around.

  24. Misery Fox says:

    Failed mine 4 times in the Netherlands. Not because I made any actual mistakes, mainly because they thought I was too nervous or careful. The second time I was unfairly failed, even according to my own instructor. Got it in the end though. In the Netherlands most people take 30+ lessons before they take the test. And the written test has gotten more difficult over the years. My American ex-boyfriend once told me that his test in the US was basically nothing more than driving a couple of blocks and around a parking lot. He said it was laughably easy compared to our tests. And I seem to remember that he didn’t need to have a qualified instructor present when practising/taking lessons. No clue if that is the case for all states though…

  25. Meggles says:

    The British test is a million times harder than in the US. For a start you have to literally memorise the entire Highway Code (a thick book) for the written exam. Then the practical exam tests you on basically everything. If you make one tiny error you fail, and that includes having to do things like parallel park and do 3-point turns flawlessly. I know people who failed the British test several times then passed in California with almost no effort.

    • dodgy says:

      Yeah, I remember when I did my theory test (after I’d failed the first time, I left it for years), I remember doing the multiple choice for the highway code, and I got up to leave, yeah? Because I was like, “Aced it!” Only for the second part of the test to kick in, which was the test on driving perspective (X marks the spot that sort of thing), and that took my average from 98 percent to 82 percent and I just eked a pass on the theory.

      I can’t even remember the practical, I was so tense. Hah.

    • Ponytail says:

      That’s not quite true – you can make up to three ‘tiny’ errors and still pass. It’s surprising how easy it is to make more than three though… (passed on my third test !)

    • Olive says:

      I wish we had stricter driving tests here, and we should re-test people after age 60 or 70 too. Driving is a privilege, not a right! I walk or take transit everywhere, haven’t driven in 8 years, and you know what, people drive abhorrently BAD. Speeding, on the phone, not paying attention, stopping in crosswalks, parking in bike lanes, etc. It’s so dangerous out there as a cyclist or pedestrian.

  26. K. T. says:

    *whispers quietly, I’m full-grown adult and don’t have my license yet, shammmmmme*
    Thank you Carey, I get it! I loved the written and oral, studying that road code was easy but boom but I failed my first test. Parallel parking on a stick in my teens too much stress!. Plus, I thought my instructor was creepy and I felt extra nervous. I tried again a few years later and may have had to pay for a friend’s paint job when I scrapped a fence. Ugh, been living in big cities where we don’t need a car… But this new years resolution done!! Ha, *loser-face*

  27. Flaming Oh says:

    Tip for Carey … practise at the deep end in London … Do the test in Thurso – easy peasy pass.

  28. Tan says:

    My first and only driving license is in Germany and boy it was hard. We have written and practical tests and they r very strict. Coz you don’t hsve learner’s permit here. You get your license and autobahn it is. In India I mostly used public transport and didn’t have any license.

    I am glad I have a driver’s license and I cna drive. A part of being self sufficient is also being mobile.