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Starz Orders Eight-Episode Pirate Drama From Michael Bay

Michael Bay is setting sail with Starz.

The premium cable network has ordered straight to series Black Sails, an eight-episode drama revolving around the tales of Treasure Island's most feared pirate, Captain Flint, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The project, which is slated to air in 2014, takes place 20 years before the tale of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic and centers on Flint, a fast-talking pirate and his adventures with new crew member John Silver as they fight for survival of the New Providence Island, a paradise filled with pirates, prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers.

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Jericho and Human Target creator Jon Steinberg created the drama and will serve as showrunner. Bay will exec produce alongside his Platinum Dunes partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (2009's Nightmare on Elm Street). Touch's Robert Levine will co-exec produce.

The project marks Starz's latest big swing in its bid to compete with cablers including HBO and Showtime, and stands as Bay's first series television gig. 

"I'm excited to branch out into television, especially doing a longform series for Starz, a network known for supporting cutting-edge programming," Transformers producer Bay said in a statement.

Black Sails becomes the latest period drama ordered directly to series following Boss and Magic City, both of which earned second season renewals before their premieres. While the Kelsey Grammer and Jeffrey Dean Morgan projects have been met with critical acclaim, they've struggled to attract the breakout success the network had hoped to achieve.

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"If we think the work is good and if the team in place has the capacity to continue to do that work, then we’re going to stand behind a [show]," Starz chief Chris Albrecht told reporters in January of his "MO" for the network. 

The Bay effort joins Starz's Marco Polo scripted drama from Young Guns' John Fusco at the network, which was also ordered straight to series. The cabler also is developing Harem, a potential six-hour miniseries exploring the Ottoman Empire with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe scribe Ann Peacock and based on an original idea by Gina Gershon.

Like Spartacus and Magic City, Starz will retain all domestic and international rights to the series, including for TV, home video and digital. Black Sails will begin production at Cape Town Studios later this year in South Africa. It also stands as the latest in Starz's love affair with the sword-and-sandals genre, joining Spartacus and the upcoming David Goyer historical drama Da Vinci's Demons at the network.

 Bay is repped by WME and Sloane Offer. For Steinberg's part, the scribe also has Beauty and the Beast drama pilot in contention at ABC. He's also with WME.

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