The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that hands out the Oscars, on Monday condemned Will Smith's slap of presenter Chris Rock at Sunday night's ceremony and said it had started a formal review of the incident.

Smith stormed onstage and hit the comedian in front of a star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles after Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and her hair loss.

Red Table Talk host Pinkett Smith has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and said it is what prompted her to shave her head.

In a statement on Monday, the academy said it "condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night's show."

"We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law," the academy added.

Oscars show-runner Will Packer says the altercation between Smith and Rock at the 94th Academy Awards was "a very painful moment for me".

The incident generated enormous backlash on social media and across Hollywood, with the Academy saying it "does not condone violence in any form", and involvement from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Packer initially responded to the incident by saying: "Welp… I said it wouldn't be boring #Oscars," a comment that drew some criticism.

He later tweeted: "Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don't feel the need to elucidate that for you.

"But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels."

US comedian and former Oscars host Whoopi Goldberg said Smith had "made a mistake" and that the Academy would not take his best actor prize from him.

"We're not going to take that Oscar from him," she said, speaking on her US talk show The View.

"There will be consequences, I’m sure, but I don’t think that that’s what they’ll do, particularly because Chris said, 'Listen, I’m not pressing any charges’.

"(Smith) made a mistake… overreactions, mistakes were made. I think he overreacted.

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"He had one of those moments where he was like… just stop. And you’ve got all the pressure of hoping that you win and trying to keep your face.

"I get it, not everyone acts the way we would like them to under pressure, some people just snap. He snapped.

"I don’t know if they spoke or if he apologised or not, all I know is that sometimes you get to a point and you behave badly."

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Source: Reuters / Press Association