Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Sam Irvin went on to become a prolific director, producer, screenwriter, and author.
As a teenager, he edited and published Bizarre, a fanzine on fantasy, horror and science fiction films, for which he traveled to England to conduct in-person interviews with the likes of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee (on the set of the James Bond movie Man with the Golden Gun), Peter Cushing, Diana Rigg, Ingrid Pitt, Jane Seymour, Joan Collins, Terence Fisher, Freddie Francis, Michael Carreras (of Hammer Film Productions), among many others.
In 1978, Irvin graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts. While attending the university, he was the film critic for The Gamecock, the campus newspaper, and won a student film award for his thesis short film. He was also chairman of the University of South Carolina Film Committee that ran a year-round cinema program at the campus theater. During his summer break in 1977, Irvin interned on Brian De Palma’s The Fury (starring Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Amy Irving, Charles Durning) and wrote a journal on the making of the movie that was published in Cinefantastique magazine.
Irvin began his professional career as director Brian De Palma's assistant on Dressed to Kill (starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen).
In the 1980s, Irvin served as Vice President of Marketing for three film distributors: United Artists Classics (during the regime of Tom Bernard and Michael Barker), Spectrafilm, and Vestron. During this period, he won Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards for designing the movie posters for Francois Truffaut’s Confidentially Yours and Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man.
Irvin's first directorial effort, which he also wrote and produced, was the 1985 dark comedy short Double Negative (starring Bill Randolph, Justin Henry, Wayne Knight, William Finley). It premiered as an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival and subsequently played theatrically in New York and Los Angeles. New York Times film critic Janet Maslin wrote that it was “an exceptionally promising first effort.”
Since 1990, Irvin has directed a dozen feature-length movies including Guilty as Charged (starring Rod Steiger, Lauren Hutton, Heather Graham, Isaac Hayes; won Gold Special Jury Award for Best Independent Feature at Houston Worldfest), Out There (starring Billy Campbell, Billy Bob Thornton, Rod Steiger, Jill St. John, Julie Brown), Fat Rose and Squeaky (starring Louise Fletcher, Cicely Tyson), Acting on Impulse (starring C. Thomas Howell, Linda Fiorentino, Nancy Allen), Too Cool for Christmas (starring George Hamilton, Donna Mills); Deadly Skies (starring Antonio Sabato Jr., Rae Dawn Chong, Michael Moriarty), Oblivion 1 & 2 (starring Isaac Hayes, Julie Newmar, George Takei, Maxwell Caulfield; won Gold Award for Best Fantasy / Science Fiction Feature at Houston Worldfest), Magic Island (starring Zachery Ty Bryan, French Stewart), and Elvira's Haunted Hills (starring Cassandra Peterson, Richard O’Brien; won Audience Award at the 2002 Provincetown International Film Festival).
From his own original screenplay, Irvin directed Kiss of a Stranger (starring Mariel Hemingway, Dyan Cannon, David Carradine).
For television, Irvin directed several episodes of Comedy Central’s Strip Mall (starring Julie Brown, Cindy Williams, Stella Stevens) and three full seasons of Dante's Cove (starring Tracy Scoggins, Charlie David, Jenny Shimizu, Thea Gill, Reichen Lehmkuhl) for which he also co-wrote the series’ international hit theme song, “Dying to Be with You.”
His credits also include associate producing Brian De Palma’s Home Movies (starring Keith Gordon, Kirk Douglas, Nancy Allen); co-executive producing Bill Condon’s Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters (starring Sir Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave); and co-producing Greg Berlanti’s The Broken Hearts Club (starring Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, Zach Braff, Nia Long, John Mahoney).
Other co-executive producing credits include: I’ll Remember April (starring Haley Joel Osment, Mark Harmon, Pat Morita); Error in Judgment, starring Joe Mantegna, Joanna Pacula; and Boltneck (starring Ryan Reynolds, Matthew Lawrence, Judge Reinhold, Shelley Duvall); The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human starring Mackenzie Astin, Carmen Elektra, Lucy Liu, David Hyde Pierce); and When Time Expires (starring Richard Greico, Mark Hamill, Chad Everett).
Irvin produced Just Can’t Get Enough: The Chippendales Murder and The First Time (starring Wendie Jo Sperber, Cathyrn Damon); and associate produced Sticky Fingers starring Melanie Mayron, Helen Slater, Eileen Brennan, Carol Kane, Christopher Guest).
Irvin's first book, Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise, was published by Simon & Schuster (November 2010). Acclaimed by columnist Liz Smith as "a smashing work" and by entertainer Michael Feinstein as "one of the best showbiz bios I've ever read," this comprehensive biography covers the life and career of the legendary singer-actress-composer-arranger-author-fashionista Kay Thompson. In connection with his research on the life of Thompson, Irvin served as a historical consultant on the 2009 Tony Award-winning Broadway event Liza's at the Palace, a tribute to Kay Thompson starring her goddaughter Liza Minnelli. He also produced and annotated the 2009 3-CD box set compilation Think Pink! A Kay Thompson Party (Sepia Records); and he appeared in and consulted on Paramount Home Entertainment's documentary Kay Thompson: Think Pink! (an extra included in Paramount's Centennial Collection DVD edition of Stanley Donen's Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, and Kay Thompson).
Between projects, Irvin serves as an adjunct faculty member for directing at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.