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In 1945 Gérard was seen in two roles completely different from each other: Albert Camus' Caligula, in the role of the sanguinary tyrant, who is eaten up by his appetite for knowledge and the fear that knowledge inspires, and that of Prince Mishkin, The Idiot after the novel of Dostoevsky, pure and with the generosity of an infant.

Gérard heard that Jean Hébertot was directing Caligula while he was shooting Le Pays Sans étoiles. He was 23 at that time, but he thought that he would be more convincing in the role of the tyrant as his almost 60-year old colleague, Henri Rollan. Hébertot denied Gérard the role, but after Henri Rollan had to give up the movie due to a sunstroke he got in Africa, Gérard went to Camus himself. Camus was touched by the young actor's enthusiasm and took him for the role. Despite his youth and weak health (he was still suffering from the aftermath of an earlier pleurisy), he mastered the text with such intelligence and authority that all his colleagues were astonished from the start. While the play's success was probably mostly due to its timelessness, the whole press was appraising the figure who transcended the stage and screen with an ease no one else had managed in his generation. Caligula attracted audiences until 1946 when the troupe went on tour. It was in this play that René Clair discovered Gérard, when he returned from the States. At the same time Georges Lampin was considering Gérard for the role of the Prince Mishkin, and while the fates of the other two main roles were being decided, Gérard used the time to study his character, meeting Belorussians to get well acquainted with their personality. He felt very close to the dostoevskian hero, who reacted as he did to human injustice, misery and cowardice.

After L'Idiot premiered, people started chasing Gérard Philipe for his autograph. At this time, Gérard moved in with his friend Jacques Sigurd to their shared flat in Paris, rue de Dragon 7. Gérard was rather amused at his fame, but not overwhelmed by it, and preferred the company of his friends, who often paid visits in his small flat.

From 1943 to 1946 Gérard worked day in day out, and fatigue eventually won him over. Jacques Sigurd persuaded him to take a few weeks off and go to the Pyrennes. The two of them went to the mountains accompanied by Nicole Fourcade, who four years later would become Anne Philipe. Gérard took long walks with the young woman in the mountains, but was not able to forget Paris and his work completely. He also received an offer from movie director Claude-Autant Lara in a telegraph. He wanted Gérard to play the role of Francois in the movie Le Diable au Corps after the novel by Raymond Radiguet. Gérard argued that he was older than the teenager Francois should have been, but eventually accepted the offer. The novel had been a scandal between the two World Wars, and the movie became the scandal of 1947. The debates after seeing the movie, and the protests of certain morality leagues managed to discredit the movie in the eyes of the public, who chose to regard it as the exultation of an adulterous affair with the war as background, and not as what it was, a sensitive work about enthusiasm and love.

At this point, not only the greatest French directors (Christian-Jacque, René Clair, Marcel Carné, Max Ophuls), but also Hollywood was assaulting Gérard Philipe with proposals. He declined the golden chain of Hollywood; he would up to his death choose his roles well, not deceive his audience, and at the same time, marching ahead and being open to changes.