March 19, 2014
Facebook/Elle Magazine (US)

Emma Watson graces the April cover of Elle, which hits newsstands March 25. In her interview with Mickey Rapkin, she offers an interesting defense of her choice to join Darren Aronofsky's $125 million biblical epic.

Watson, who plays Noah's adopted daughter, Ila, says the film is more philosophical than the trailer may appear:

It's Shakespearean, what happens to this family when they're put in this confined space for 40 days and 40 nights. It's the end of the world — how these different human beings are dealing with the impact of that. Are humans good? Are we bad? All of these themes are epic. [Elle]

Her argument certainly puts an interesting twist on the classic story, and it adds a new dimension to what promises to be a memorable film. Let's just hope they don't forget the unicorn. Meghan DeMaria

1:26 p.m. ET

Donald Trump will appoint Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the transition team has informed Reuters. Pruitt has long been an outspoken critic of President Obama's EPA, and even sued the agency over its water regulations as well as its controversial climate change regulations imposed on power plants, Politico repots.

Pruitt has also questioned "the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind," having called the "debate … far from settled." Jeva Lange

12:26 p.m. ET
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President-elect Donald Trump doesn't seem to have switched up his interviewing style from his days as a ruthless businessman on reality TV show The Apprentice. In a wide-ranging reveal published in The New York Times on Wednesday, candidates who have either interviewed for positions in Trump's White House or simply sat down for a chat with the president-elect dished on their experiences being interrogated by America's next commander-in-chief. The overwhelming takeaway: Once a businessman, always a businessman.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Trump is all about wanting to know "what you can do for him." "If you filibuster, he'll cut you off," Gingrich said. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a contender for the next secretary of agriculture, said Trump clearly approached their sit-down "from a deal standpoint." "He believes that we in the United States have been sort of patsies over the years in the way we've dealt with our foreign competitors and international trade — and I agree with him — and he wanted to know what I would do about it," Perdue told The New York Times. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown noted a similar takeaway, saying Trump "made it clear that he's a businessman and he's going to delegate to people."

Others couldn't help but notice the atmosphere at Trump Tower was reminiscent of the entertainment world. Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta compared approaching Trump Tower to "walking the red carpet in Hollywood." "It was like a green room," said BET founder Robert L. Johnson, "a waiting room of people you know or you know of, all waiting their turn."

Head over to The New York Times to get the full scoop on what it's like to be interviewed by Trump. Becca Stanek

11:40 a.m. ET
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President-elect Donald Trump will invite a third general to a top White House position, offering retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, 66, the position of secretary of homeland security, The New York Times confirms. Kelly will join retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who will serve as national security adviser, and retired Gen. James Mattis, who has been nominated for defense secretary, as former military men tapped for Trump's administration. As Politico notes, Kelly's selection may make slimmer the chances of retired Gen. David Petraeus for secretary of state, as many generals have already been nominated for White House positions.

The Department of Homeland Security, established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, helms border and immigration control, both of which are issues Trump had made central to his campaign. In the past, Kelly has clashed with President Obama on the decision to open combat roles to women in the military as well as the administration's plans to close Guantanamo Bay.

After four decades in the military, Kelly recently retired as the chief of U.S. Southern Command, which oversaw military operations in Central and South America. Kelly is also one of the most senior military officers to have lost a child in Iraq or Afghanistan; his son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, was killed after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan in 2010.

Kelly has not yet been formally offered the position because he is out of the country, but a person briefed on the decision said he would be appointed next week when others are publicly named for remaining Cabinet positions, including secretary of state. Jeva Lange

11:32 a.m. ET
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Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a leading contender to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Wednesday he would step down from his congressional seat if he won the chairmanship. Ellison's admission in an interview with the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune came after many Democrats made it clear they were not comfortable with electing another party leader who would be juggling the chairmanship with another role; former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz retained her House seat as a Florida congresswoman while she held the post. More than 400 of the DNC's voting members had said they would not vote for Ellison if he intended to hang onto his seat.

The chairmanship election, slated for Feb. 23, 2017, arrives as many in the Democratic Party rally for change after crushing defeats in the last two elections and Schultz's resignation this summer just ahead of the Democratic National Convention. "I have learned one thing: Democrats are ready for a massive comeback," Ellison told the Star Tribune. "Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning, and resource raising. I will be 'all-in' to meet the challenge."

Two other contenders — the state party chairs in New Hampshire and South Carolina — have also officially thrown their hats into the ring to be the next DNC chair. Becca Stanek

11:23 a.m. ET

Comparing President-elect Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler is nothing especially new. Yet as the days wind down before Inauguration Day, comedian Tina Fey told David Letterman in an interview published by The Hollywood Reporter that she wants people to do two things before the year is over: "Watch Idiocracy by Mike Judge and read [Nazi filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl's 800-page autobiography [Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir]."

Pressed by Letterman on that curious second recommendation, Fey elaborated:

Fey: [Riefenstahl] grew up in Germany. She was in many ways a brilliant pioneer. She pioneered sports photography as we know it. She's the one who had the idea to dig a trench next to the track for the Olympics and put a camera on a dolly. But she also rolled with the punches and said, "Well, he's the fuhrer. He's my president. I'll make films for him." She did some terrible, terrible things. And I remember reading [her book] 20 years ago, thinking, "This is a real lesson, to be an artist who doesn't roll with what your leader is doing just because he's your leader."

Letterman: My impression of this woman is that she was the sister of Satan.

Fey: She was in many ways. But what she claimed in the book was, "He was the president, so what was I supposed to do?" And I feel a lot of people are going to start rolling that way. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Fey also has some thoughts about how comedy is highlighting Trump's "bad management skills." Head over to The Hollywood Reporter to read the full interview. Jeva Lange

10:30 a.m. ET

Is Time secretly trolling Donald Trump with its Person of the Year cover? Some people think so. After the magazine announced the designation for the president-elect early Wednesday morning, Twitter users began to notice sneaky design choices that draw not-so-flattering comparisons:

Then there is that other person of the year:

And while we're at it, doesn't the triangle formed by the space between the arms of the "Y" in "year" looks suspiciously like an inverted Illuminati pyramid? The truth is out there, people. Jeva Lange

10:24 a.m. ET

America's longest-serving governor is reportedly leaving his post to become U.S. ambassador to China. Multiple sources have reported that President-elect Donald Trump has offered Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) the position, and that Branstad has accepted.

Already, Trump has ruffled feathers in China by speaking over the phone last week to the president of Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of the mainland, and the U.S. has long avoided officially recognizing Taiwan as independent of China. The president-elect was also critical of China throughout the presidential election, and he continued his critique Sunday on Twitter, prompting several Chinese state media outlets to publish disapproving editorials.

Branstad's appointment, however, may "help to ease trade tensions between" the U.S. and China, Reuters reported. Branstad has called Chinese President Xi Jinping a "long-time friend," and Xi has paid a visit to Iowa. When rumors of Branstad's appointment surfaced Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang called Branstad an "old friend" of the country and said China would "welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-U.S. relations," Bloomberg reported.

Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes has not confirmed reports, which he called "premature." If Branstad were to leave his post as governor after six terms, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would likely assume the role, becoming Iowa's first female governor. Becca Stanek

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